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Billing Records of 12,331 Patients of Inova Health System Have Been Compromised

Falls Church, VA-based Inova Health System has started notifying 12,331 patients that some of their protected health information has been accessed by an unauthorized individual.

Inova Health System was contacted by law enforcement on September 5, 2018 over a suspected breach of patients’ billing information. A leading computer forensics firm was engaged to conduct an investigation into the breach to determine the nature of the attack and the extent of the breach.

The investigation revealed its billing system was first accessed by an unauthorized individual in January 2017, and again between July and October 2017. Access was gained using the login credentials of an Inova employee.

Peculiarly, Inova also reported that the same individual also gained access to paper billing records of a small number of patients in December 2016, which suggests that this may have been an insider breach involving a former employee, business associate or another individual with access to Inova facilities. However, no information about the individual responsible for the breach has been made public by Inova.

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The types of information that were accessed included patient names, addresses, birth dates, medical record numbers, and Social Security numbers. Treatment information of a limited number of patients was also potentially accessed.

The data breach has prompted Inova to enhance its security processes. Additional monitoring tools have been deployed to identify unauthorized access, password policies have been updated with respect to password complexity, and new limitations on the transmission of information have been implemented. Employees have been retrained on securing sensitive information before leaving their workstations unattended and on password security. A review of security policies and procedures has also been conducted.

Inova started mailing breach notification letters to affected patients on November 2 and is assisting law enforcement with its investigation.

All patients affected by the breach have been offered one year of credit monitoring and identity theft protection services without charge.

Author: Steve Alder is the editor-in-chief of HIPAA Journal. Steve is responsible for editorial policy regarding the topics covered on HIPAA Journal. He is a specialist on healthcare industry legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA and other related legal topics. Steve has developed a deep understanding of regulatory issues surrounding the use of information technology in the healthcare industry and has written hundreds of articles on HIPAA-related topics.