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2016 was a particularly bad year for healthcare data breaches. The largest healthcare data breaches of 2016 were nowhere near the scale of those seen in 2015 – 16,471,765 records were exposed compared to 113,267,174 records in 2015 – but more covered entities reported breaches than in any other year since OCR started publishing breach summaries on its ‘Wall of Shame’ in 2009. 2016 ranks as the second worst year in terms of the number of patient and health plan members’ records that have been exposed in a single year.
As of February 6, 2017 there have been 329 reported breaches of more than 500 records that have been uploaded to the OCR breach portal.
2016 Healthcare Data Breaches of 500 or More Records
|Year||Number of Breaches (500+)||Number of Records Exposed|
Largest Healthcare Data Breaches of 2016
While the above figures appear to suggest a significant reduction in large healthcare data breaches year on year, the figures are somewhat misleading.
In 2015 there were three massive data breaches reported by covered entities: Anthem Inc., Premera Blue Cross, and Excellus Health Plan. Those three cyberattacks resulted in the theft of 78.8 million records, 11 million, and 10 million records respectively.
More records may have been exposed in 2015 as a result of those major cyberattacks, although in each size category, 2016 ranked worse than 2015. Many healthcare organizations will be happy to put 2016 behind them.
|Year||Breaches of More Than 500 Records|
|500 to 1000||1,000 to 10,000||10,000 to 100,000||100,001+|
*No total submitted for one healthcare data breach in 2016
Aside from one major breach at a business associate and a health plan, all of the largest healthcare data breaches of 2016 – those that resulted in the exposure or theft of more than 100,000 healthcare records – affected healthcare providers. The largest healthcare data breach of 2016 experienced by a health plan was the 381,504-record breach reported by Community Health Plan of Washington in December.
Largest Healthcare Data Breaches of 2016
|Rank||Covered Entity||Entity Type||Cause of Breach||Records Exposed|
|1||Banner Health||Healthcare Provider||Hacking/IT Incident||3,620,000|
|2||Newkirk Products, Inc.||Business Associate||Hacking/IT Incident||3,466,120|
|3||21st Century Oncology||Healthcare Provider||Hacking/IT Incident||2,213,597|
|4||Valley Anesthesiology Consultants||Healthcare Provider||Hacking/IT Incident||882,590|
|5||County of Los Angeles Departments of Health and Mental Health||Healthcare Provider||Hacking/IT Incident||749,017|
|6||Bon Secours Health System Incorporated||Healthcare Provider||Unauthorized Access/Disclosure||651,971|
|7||Peachtree Orthopaedic Clinic||Healthcare Provider||Hacking/IT Incident||531,000|
|8||Radiology Regional Center, PA||Healthcare Provider||Loss||483,063|
|9||California Correctional Health Care Services||Healthcare Provider||Theft||400,000|
|10||Community Health Plan of Washington||Health Plan||Hacking/IT Incident||381,504|
|11||Central Ohio Urology Group, Inc.||Healthcare Provider||Hacking/IT Incident||300,000|
|12||Premier Healthcare, LLC||Healthcare Provider||Theft||205,748|
|13||Athens Orthopedic Clinic, P.A.||Healthcare Provider||Unauthorized Access/Disclosure||201,000|
|14||Community Mercy Health Partners||Healthcare Provider||Improper Disposal||113,528|
Main Causes of Healthcare Data Breaches in 2016
Insider breaches continue to plague the healthcare industry in the United States. Insiders may not have caused the largest healthcare data breaches of 2016, although these breaches can cause the most harm to patients. The data stolen in these incidents is commonly used for identity theft and fraud, and usually relatively soon after data have been stolen. Hackers often wait for a year or two before data are used.
As in 2015, the main cause of healthcare data breaches in 2016 was unauthorized access/disclosure. Hacking incidents on the scale of those at Anthem, Premera, and Excellus were not repeated in 2016, but 2016 saw a major increase in healthcare hacks.
The loss and theft of unencrypted devices used to store PHI fell considerably year on year, although the use of data encryption technology could have prevented all of those data breaches and the exposure of almost 1,500,000 healthcare records.
|Main Cause of Breach||2016||2015|
*One cause of breach in 2016 was not reported
2016 Healthcare Data Breaches by Covered Entity
Healthcare data breaches in 2016 followed a similar pattern to 2015, with healthcare providers the main entities breached, although the percentage of breaches affecting health plans was significantly lower in 2015. Data breaches at business associates remained at the same level year on year.
Data Source: Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights: Figures Updated February 7, 2017