2019 Healthcare Data Breach Report

Share this article on:

Figures from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights breach portal show a major increase in healthcare data breaches in 2019. Last year, 510 healthcare data breaches of 500 or more records were reported, which represents a 196% increase from 2018.

As the graph below shows, aside from 2015, healthcare data breaches have increased every year since the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights first started publishing breach summaries in October 2009.

37.47% more records were breached in 2019 than 2018, increasing from 13,947,909 records in 2018 to 41,335,889 records in 2019.

Last year saw more data breaches reported than any other year in history and 2019 was the second worst year in terms of the number of breached records. More healthcare records were breached in 2019 than in the six years from 2009 to 2014. In 2019, the healthcare records of 12.55% of the population of the United States were exposed, impermissibly disclosed, or stolen.

Largest Healthcare Data Breaches of 2019

The table below shows the largest healthcare data breaches of 2019, based on the entity that reported the breach.

Name of Covered Entity Covered Entity Type Individuals Affected Type of Breach Location of Breached Information
1 Optum360, LLC Business Associate 11500000 Hacking/IT Incident Network Server
2 Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings dba LabCorp Healthcare Provider 10251784 Hacking/IT Incident Network Server
3 Dominion Dental Services, Inc., Dominion National Insurance Company, and Dominion Dental Services USA, Inc. Health Plan 2964778 Hacking/IT Incident Network Server
4 Clinical Pathology Laboratories, Inc. Healthcare Provider 1733836 Unauthorized Access/Disclosure Network Server
5 Inmediata Health Group, Corp. Healthcare Clearing House 1565338 Unauthorized Access/Disclosure Network Server
6 UW Medicine Healthcare Provider 973024 Hacking/IT Incident Network Server
7 Women’s Care Florida, LLC Healthcare Provider 528188 Hacking/IT Incident Network Server
8 CareCentrix, Inc. Healthcare Provider 467621 Hacking/IT Incident Network Server
9 Intramural Practice Plan – Medical Sciences Campus – University of Puerto Rico Healthcare Provider 439753 Hacking/IT Incident Network Server
10 BioReference Laboratories Inc. Healthcare Provider 425749 Hacking/IT Incident Other
11 Bayamon Medical Center Corp. Healthcare Provider 422496 Hacking/IT Incident Network Server
12 Memphis Pathology Laboratory d/b/a American Esoteric Laboratories Healthcare Provider 409789 Unauthorized Access/Disclosure Network Server
13 Sunrise Medical Laboratories, Inc. Healthcare Provider 401901 Hacking/IT Incident Network Server
14 Columbia Surgical Specialist of Spokane Healthcare Provider 400000 Hacking/IT Incident Network Server
15 Sarrell Dental Healthcare Provider 391472 Hacking/IT Incident Network Server
16 UConn Health Healthcare Provider 326629 Hacking/IT Incident Email
17 Premier Family Medical Healthcare Provider 320000 Hacking/IT Incident Network Server
18 Metro Santurce, Inc. d/b/a Hospital Pavia Santurce and Metro Hato Rey, Inc. d/b/a Hospital Pavia Hato Rey Healthcare Provider 305737 Hacking/IT Incident Network Server
19 Navicent Health, Inc. Healthcare Provider 278016 Hacking/IT Incident Email
20 ZOLL Services LLC Healthcare Provider 277319 Hacking/IT Incident Network Server

 

The above table does not tell the full story. When a business associate experiences a data breach, it is not always reported by the business associate. Sometimes a breach is experienced by a business associate and the covered entities that they work with report the breaches separately, as was the case with American Medical Collection Agency (AMCA), a collection agency used by several HIPAA covered entities.

In 2019, hackers gained access to AMCA systems and stole sensitive client data. The breach was the second largest healthcare data breach ever reported, with only the Anthem Inc. data breach of 2015 having impacted more individuals.

HIPAA Journal tracked the breach reports submitted to OCR by each affected covered entity. At least 24 organizations are known to have had data exposed/stolen as a result of the hack.

Organizations Affected by the 2019 AMCA Data Breach

Healthcare Organization Confirmed Victim Count
Quest Diagnostics/Optum360 11,500,000
LabCorp 10,251,784
Clinical Pathology Associates 1,733,836
Carecentrix 467,621
BioReference Laboratories/Opko Health 425,749
American Esoteric Laboratories 409,789
Sunrise Medical Laboratories 401,901
Inform Diagnostics 173,617
CBLPath Inc. 141,956
Laboratory Medicine Consultants 140,590
Wisconsin Diagnostic Laboratories 114,985
CompuNet Clinical Laboratories 111,555
Austin Pathology Associates 43,676
Mount Sinai Hospital 33,730
Integrated Regional Laboratories 29,644
Penobscot Community Health Center 13,299
Pathology Solutions 13,270
West Hills Hospital and Medical Center / United WestLabs 10,650
Seacoast Pathology, Inc 8,992
Arizona Dermatopathology 5,903
Laboratory of Dermatology ADX, LLC 4,082
Western Pathology Consultants 4,079
Natera 3,035
South Texas Dermatopathology LLC 15,982
Total Records Breached 26,059,725

Causes of 2019 Healthcare Data Breaches

The HHS’ Office for Civil Rights assigns breaches to one of five different categories:

  • Hacking/IT incidents
  • Unauthorized access/disclosures
  • Theft
  • Loss
  • Improper disposal

59.41% of healthcare data breaches in 2019 were classified as hacking/IT incidents and involved 87.60% of all breached records. 28.82% of data breaches were classed as unauthorized access/disclosure incidents and involved 11.27% of all records breached in 2019.

10.59% of breaches were classed as loss and theft incidents involving electronic devices containing unencrypted electronic protected health information or physical records. Those incidents accounted for 1.07% of breached records in 2019.

1.18% of breaches and 0.06% of breached records were due to improper disposal of physical records and devices containing electronic protected health information.

Breach Cause Incidents Breached Records Mean Breach Size Median Breach Size
Hacking/IT Incident 303 36,210,097 119,505 6,000
Unauthorized Access/Disclosure 147 4,657,932 31,687 1,950
Theft 39 367,508 9,423 2,477
Loss 15 74,271 4,951 3,135
Improper Disposal 6 26,081 4,347 4,177

We have not tracked the cause of each breach reported in 2019, but the table below provides an indication of the biggest problem area for healthcare organizations – Securing email systems and blocking phishing attacks. The email incidents include misdirected emails, but the majority of email incidents were phishing and spear phishing attacks.

Healthcare Data Breaches by Covered Entity

77.65% of 2019 data breaches were reported by healthcare providers (369 incidents), 11.57% of breaches were reported by health plans (59 incidents), and 0.39% of data breaches were reported by healthcare clearinghouses (2 incidents).

23.33% of the year’s breaches involved business associates to some extent. 10.39% of data breaches were reported by business associates (53 incidents) and 66 data breaches were reported by a covered entity which stated there was some business associate involvement.

States Worst Affected by Healthcare Data Breaches

Data breaches were reported by HIPAA-covered entities or business associates in 48 states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico. The worst affected state was Texas with 60 data breaches reported. California was the second most badly hit with 42 reported data breaches.

The only states where no data breaches of 500 or more records were reported were North Dakota and Hawaii.

State Breaches State Breaches State Breaches State Breaches State Breaches
Texas 60 Maryland 14 Arkansas 9 Alabama 4 Mississippi 2
California 42 Washington 14 South Carolina 9 Alaska 4 Montana 2
Illinois 26 Georgia 13 New Jersey 8 Iowa 4 South Dakota 2
New York 25 North Carolina 13 Massachusetts 7 Kentucky 4 Washington DC 2
Ohio 25 Tennessee 11 Puerto Rico 7 Nebraska 4 West Virginia 2
Minnesota 23 Arizona 10 Virginia 7 Oklahoma 4 Delaware 1
Florida 22 Colorado 10 Louisiana 6 Utah 4 Kansas 1
Pennsylvania 19 Connecticut 10 New Mexico 6 Wyoming 3 New Hampshire 1
Missouri 17 Indiana 10 Wisconsin 6 Idaho 2 Rhode Island 1
Michigan 16 Oregon 10 Nevada 5 Maine 2 Vermont 1

HIPAA Enforcement in 2019

The HHS’ Office for Civil Rights continued to enforce compliance with HIPAA at a similar level to the previous three years.

In 2019, there were 10 HIPAA enforcement actions that resulted in financial penalties. 2 civil monetary penalties were imposed and 8 covered entities/business associates agreed settlements with OCR to resolve HIPAA violations.

In total, $12,274,000 was paid to OCR in fines and settlements. The largest financial penalties of the year resulted from investigations of potential HIPAA violations by University of Rochester Medical Center and Touchstone Medical Imaging. Both cases were settled for £3,000,000.

OCR uncovered multiple violations of HIPAA Rules while investigating separate loss/theft incidents reported by University of Rochester Medical Center. OCR discovered risk analysis and risk management failures, a lack of encryption on portable electronic devices, and insufficient device and media controls.

Touchstone Medical Imaging experienced a data breach that resulted in the impermissible disclosure of 307,839 individuals’ PHI due to the exposure of an FTP server over the internet. OCR investigated and determined there had been risk analysis failures, business associate agreements failures, insufficient access rights, a failure to respond to a security incident, and violations of the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule.

Sentara Hospitals agreed to a $2.175 million settlement stemming from a 577-record data breach that was reported to OCR as only affecting 8 individuals. OCR told Sentara Hospitals that the breach notification needed to be updated to include the other individuals affected by the mailing error, but Sentara Hospitals refused. OCR determined a financial penalty was appropriate for the breach notification reporting failure and the lack of a business associate agreement with one of its vendors.

A civil monetary penalty of $2.154 million was imposed on the Miami, FL-based nonprofit academic medical system, Jackson Health System (JHS). Following a data breach, OCR investigated and found a compliance program that had been in disarray for several years. The CMP resolved multiple violations of HIPAA Privacy Rule, Security Rule, and Breach Notification Rule.

A civil monetary penalty of $1,600,000 was imposed on Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services for multiple violations of HIPAA Rules discovered during the investigation of breach involving an exposed internal application. OCR discovered there had been risk analysis failures, access control failures, and information system activity monitoring failures, which contributed to the impermissible disclosure of 6,617 patients’ ePHI.

Medical Informatics Engineering, an Indiana-based provider of electronic medical record software and services, experienced a major data breach in 2015 at its NoMoreClipboard subsidiary. Hackers used a compromised username and password to gain access to a server that contained the protected health information (PHI) of 3.5 million individuals. OCR determined there had been a risk analysis failure and the case was settled for $100,000. MIE also settled a multi-state action with state attorneys general over the same breach and settled that case for $900,000.

The Carroll County, GA ambulance company, West Georgia Ambulance, was investigated over the reported loss of an unencrypted laptop computer that contained the PHI of 500 patients. OCR found there had been a risk analysis failure, there was no security awareness training program for staff, and HIPAA Security Rule policies and procedures had not been implemented. The case was settled for $65,000.

There was one financial penalty for a social media HIPAA violation. Elite Dental Associates respondents to patient reviews on Yelp, and in doing so impermissibly disclosed PHI. OCR determined a financial penalty was appropriate and the case was settled for $10,000.

OCR also launched a new HIPAA enforcement initiative in 2019, under which two settlements were reached with covered entities over HIPAA Right of Access failures. Korunda Medical and Bayfront Health St. Petersburg had both failed to respond to patient requests for copies of their health information within a reasonable time frame. Both covered entities settled their HIPAA violation cases with OCR for $85,000.

OCR HIPAA Settlements and Civil Monetary Penalties in 2019

HIPAA Enforcement by State Attorneys General in 2019

State attorneys general can also take action over violations of HIPAA Rules. There were three cases against covered entities and business associates in 2019. As previously mentioned, Medical Informatics Engineering settled a multi-state lawsuit and paid a financial penalty of $900,000.

A second multi-state action was settled by Premera Blue Cross. The lawsuit pertained to a 2015 hacking incident that resulted in the theft of 10.4 million records. The investigation uncovered multiple violations of violations of HIPAA Rules and resulted in a $10 million financial penalty.

The California attorney general also took legal action over a data breach that affected 1,991 California residents. The health insurer Aetna had sent two mailings to its members in which highly sensitive information relating to HIV and Afib diagnoses was visible through the windows of the envelopes. The case was settled for $935,000.

Author: HIPAA Journal

Share This Post On