Protected health information

Data breach at rehabilitation facility

February 27th, 2017

Catalina Post-Acute and Rehabilitation recently announced data breach when paper files were left in an unattended area. The patient data and certain employee information were left temporarily vulnerable to possible unauthorized public access. Current or past residents and employees are encouraged to take steps to protect themselves.

Facility has mission statement provided on the website as, “Working together to create a sense of community, our dedicated and compassionate staff will strive to exceed your expectations and make a difference in the lives of those we serve by providing exceptional care and service, and remembering you are the reason we are here.”

The healthcare organization mentioned that it came to know about these files on December 5, 2016. Affected information included demographic information. Diagnoses and Social Security numbers in some cases. As per the OCR reporting tool, the incident affected 2,953 individuals.

Facility mentioned that it launched an investigation into the incident. Also, protocols in place relating to PHI storage and employee information are reviewed. It also mentioned that as per the internal investigation it appears that no patient or employee information was misused.

“Catalina Post-Acute and Rehabilitation is committed to the proper handling and protection of resident and employee information, and regularly assesses its systems and processes to ensure that this information is maintained and managed in accordance with State and Federal Law,” the online statement explained.

Facility also mentioned that consumers may request free copy of their credit report once 12 months from Equifax, Experian and Trans Union. These agencies have central website to provide free credit report.  It has also provided contact number to answer questions and queries of affected individuals.

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Emails forwarded to personal email account

February 24th, 2017

An employee of A Multnomah County Health Department automatically forwarded all emails from county email account to a personal Google email account. The recipient email account is not maintained by the Oregon county. PHI was present on some of the emails. The incident has  created a PHI breach.

On November 22, 2016 facility came to know about the incident during an audit. Facility mentioned that it found no evidence  of the emails getting misused. It also concluded that personal account had been deleted after the investigation. It is no longer available to the employees.

PHI was present in the email attachments because it was attributed to a member of the Health Department. Potentially affected information included individuals’ names, medical record numbers, prescription numbers, diagnoses, and dates of service. As per the OCR data breach reporting tool, incident affected 1,700 individuals.

Facility also mentioned that there is no presence of any patient’s Social Security number, home address, or phone number.

Multnomah County and the County Health Department are also monitoring any activity involving patient information.  It is also taking measures to increase protections of personal information in response to this incident.

“We have policies and procedures for handling personal information which were reviewed with the staff member involved in this incident,” the department explained. “We are also reviewing controls, business practices and policies to increase protections of personal information in response to this incident.”

About Multnomah County:

Around 766,135 residents in the country

Total area of 465 square miles

It includes cities like Fairview, Gresham, Maywood Park, Portland, Troutdale, Wood Village

County Employees number count is 5,600 people

Facility provides Services for seniors and disabled people, animal services, assessment and taxation, bridges, community justice, courts, elections, health, jails, libraries, marriage licenses and passports, school and community partnerships.

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Data breach due to email hack

February 20th, 2017

Foot and ankle surgeon Jay Berenter’s office announced data breach due to an email hack. Hackers sent some patients an email that the office employees claimed not to have sent. As per the reports, the email sent to Dr. Berenter’s contacts  contained a DocuSign document waiting for their review.

As per the statement, “Dr. Berenter takes the protection of information seriously and understands how important trust is in a physician-patient relationship.”

Dr. Berenter’s office immediately sent another email informing patients not to access the DocuSign email. After the incident came to notice, Dr. Berenter’s office took steps to secure the email account. It also hired forensic IT specialists.

Investigation was carried out to determine the extent of breach. it also checked whether any of the office’s systems were affected. Facility mentioned that the incident was determined to be limited to the email account only. Potentially affected information includes patient registration forms, prescriptions, and patient names.  As per the data breach reporting tool, the incident affected 569 individuals.

Facility has also hired forensic IT specialists to investigate the incident further. It is trying to make sure that no electronic medical records were accessed. Facility is implementing new email system. Additional internal administrative steps are taken to prevent a similar hack.

Federal agencies of California Attorney General and the Federal Department of Health and Human Services are notified about the incident. Facility believes that there is no evidence to say that information is misused.

Dr. Berenter’s office has provided contact information to answer queries. One year of complimentary identity theft protection is provided to potentially affected clients. It has also encouraged to place a free 90 day fraud alert on affected accounts.

“Protecting your information is incredibly important to Dr. Berenter, as is addressing this incident with the information and assistance you may need.”

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Unauthorized access and data breach

February 17th, 2017

Verity Health System based in California recently announced that an unauthorized access may have caused data breach. The incident affected personal information of more than 9,000 individuals.

Verity Health operates six hospitals which includes Seton in Daly City, Seton Coastside in Moss Beach, O’Connor in San Jose, St. Louise in Gilroy and two in Southern California. It also runs Verity Medical Foundation and Verity Physician Network. Verify Health was known as Daughters of Charity. It was renamed after taken over by investment firm BlueMountain Capital Management.

Verity Health mentioned that the access occurred on the Verity Medical Foundation-San Jose Medical Group website.  It mentioned that the website is no longer in use. Also, immediate steps were taken to secure it and protect it from further damage.

Affected information included patient names, dates of birth, medical record numbers, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers and the last four digits of credit card numbers. Full credit card numbers and Social Security numbers were not included in the breach.

Verity mentioned that 9,000 got affected individuals in its statement. As per the OCR data breach reporting tool, incident impacted 10,164 individuals.

“Verity Health System takes the security of our patients’ information seriously, and we regret that this incident occurred,” Verity Health CEO Andrei Soran said in a statement. “We took immediate steps to investigate this incident, notify the affected individuals and appropriate authorities, and ensure enhanced protection of our information systems going forward. We are working with a leading cyber-security firm to further evaluate the integrity of our information systems.”

Facility believes that there are no reports of misuse of information. It has also established a call center to answer queries. It is also offering one free year of credit monitoring services for potentially affected patients.

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Health Facility suffers email hack

February 7th, 2017

Multicare Health System recently announced data breach due to an email hack. The incident potentially affected 1,200 patients. The Washington health system mentioned that it has no information at this time to believe that any patient personal health information was accessed or misused in any way.

Facility will send the notification to affected patients. Also, patients have been advised to review their Explanation of Benefits statements and to remain vigilant to signs of irregularities related to their health insurance.

MultiCare stated that an unauthorized individual gained access to an employee email account. The information in the emails likely contained personal patient information ranging from addresses to account balances. Facility added that financial information and Social Security numbers were not present on the affected email account.

After the incident the affected email account has been secured. Password has been changed. Facility initiated an investigation into the incident and has provided contact information for patients concerned about the status of their information.

About Multicare:

“MultiCare is a not-for-profit health care organization with more than 10,000 employees and a comprehensive network of services throughout Pierce, South King, Thurston and Kitsap counties.

Facilities heritage dates back to the founding of Tacoma’s first hospital in 1882. Since then, it has grown to meet the ever-changing needs of our region-always focusing on excellence, innovation and patient care.”

When  email account gets hacked one should follow below steps to minimize the damage:

Initial step is to assess the damage done by hackers.

Visit the website of your email provider and try to regain the access.

Change the password by authorised method. Check inbox and trash for any password reset emails, which were not initiated by you.

Scan your computer with anti virus software. Many emails are hacked today to install virus on your computer.

Review your personal settings.

Validate the source  of any program, game and app before downloading it.

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Stolen laptop results in data breach

February 2nd, 2017

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Medical Group (CHLAMG) recently suffered data breach when one of its unencrypted laptop was stolen. The laptop contained personal health information of 3,600 patients.

According to the reports, laptop was taken away by thief from the locked vehicle of a CHLAMG physician at CHLA. Investigation conducted by the facility found that the laptop was encrypted to up-to-date institutional standards along with password-protection. But later review mentioned the possibility of unencrypted status of laptop.

Facility is notifying patients whose information was stored on the laptop. Affected information includes names, addresses, medical record numbers, and certain clinical information.

“Following the notification regarding the burglary, an investigation took place to determine whether patient health information existed on the laptop,” CHLA spokesman Lorenzo Benet said in a statement. “Based on the investigation, the laptop has not been used to access the internet. From that information, we believe that all data may have been erased from the device without any patient data being accessed.”

Also, a protocol is created to erase data from the laptop when it logs onto the internet next time. Notification letters sent by facility will instruct individuals to review health insurance documents for evidence of misuse or identify theft.

Facility also asked patients to review their Explanation of Benefits statements in case of any unusual behavior . Also, they are advised to notify the hospital immediately for any issues.

About Childrens Hospital Los Angeles

“Children’s Hospital Los Angeles has been named the best children’s hospital in California and among the top 10 in the nation for clinical excellence with its selection to the prestigious U.S. News & World Report Honor Roll. Children’s Hospital is home to The Saban Research Institute, one of the largest and most productive pediatric research facilities in the United States. Children’s Hospital is also one of America’s premier teaching hospitals through its affiliation with the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California since 1932.”

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Ransomware attack

December 30th, 2016

Summit Reinsurance Services recently suffered a potential cyber security threat. The incident may have affected thousands of current and former Black Hawk College employees. Summit works as reinsurance carrier for the Health Alliance, a third-party health insurance administrator for the college.

As per the website, “Summit Reinsurance provides a full-service managing general underwriter and reinsurance intermediary broker who focuses exclusively on managed care.”

Summit Re site also mentioned that it closely works with clients to completely understand risk profile. It also considers clients’ strategic vision and unique reinsurance needs. It believes that the traditional solutions don’t always provide the best experience. Customized solutions are needed considering clients’ requirements. It also provides medical management services to offer cost savings options.

After the attack, Summit informed Black Hawk. According to the reports, ransomware had infected a server containing information which includes names, Social Security numbers, health insurance information, and claim-focused medical records of current and former employees and their dependents.

As per the third-party forensic investigator, the incident occurred on March 12. Summit believes that there is no evidence for any personal information misuse. The investigation is currently ongoing. Also, potentially affected individuals are notified. They are informed about the steps which needs to be taken to improve security. Free access to one year of credit monitoring is provided.

Facility has set up call center to answer all the queries. Summit Reinsurance also suffered data breach earlier this month. That incident affected a server holding information including Social Security numbers and health insurance information.

“We are pleased that Summit Reinsurance Services is moving aggressively and taking the appropriate steps to notify the affected individuals and to minimize the impact this incident may have on them,” said Dr. Bettie Truitt, president of Black Hawk College.

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Bon Secours Health System data breach

August 16th, 2016

South Carolina-based Bon Secours Health System, Inc. recently suffered a potential healthcare. The incident may have affected 665,000 patients. According to the reports, Bon Secours has hired vendor R-C Healthcare Management which made patient files available online as it attempted to adjust its computer network settings.

R-C Healthcare was notified by the facility so that the patient information would no longer be available. Affected information included patients’ names, health insurers’ names, health insurance identification numbers, limited clinical information, Social Security numbers, and in some instances, bank account information. However, medical records were not available on the internet.

“We deeply regret any concern this may cause our patients,” Bon Secours said on its website. “To help prevent something like this from happening in the future, we are reinforcing standards with our vendors to ensure our patients’ information is securely maintained.”

Bon Secours mentioned that all patients were not affected. Those who were potentially affected will receive a notification letter in the mail. It also said that the information in the files was not misused in any way.

“If patients see that their insurer has been charged for services or procedures that they did not receive, they should contact their insurer to notify the insurer of their concerns,” the statement said. “Unfortunately, Bon Secours is not able to contact the insurer on the patient’s behalf.”

In previous week another health care data breach was noticed. Professional Dermatology Care, P.C. mentioned that 13,237 were potentially affected in a ransomware attack.

According to the facility criminals wanted to “extract money from the company in order to de-encrypt data, rather than for the misuse of patient data.”

“PDC P.C. has already taken numerous steps to safeguard and prevent any further data breach of its network server and its patients’ protected health information; we have increased cyber security, implemented a new firewall as well as malware protection services,” PDC P.C. stated on its website. “The data breach was immediately reported to the F.B.I. and reports are being provided to the Virginia Office of the Attorney General and to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.”

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Medical records found in dumpster

August 7th, 2015

Personal documents including medical records were found in a dumpster in Taylorsville, Utah. The incident may cause potential data breach. According to the reports, the records appear to have come from Positive Adjustments, an out-of-business drug and alcohol rehabilitation clinic.

Dr. Scott Cold, DDS, mentioned that his contractor found the documents in a dumpster being used for construction waste.

“These documents for these records were complete with patients names, addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, court documents, treatment documents, all dumped in my dumpster illegally,” Cold said.

As per the other tenants in the building where Positive Adjustments was located, the clinic has been empty for about six months. Cold notified police after finding the documents, but law enforcement said that it would be difficult to pursue charges beyond illegal dumping.

It is essential that PHI security remain a top priority even when a facility changes location. While a specific disposal method is not outlined in the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules, putting PHI – in any form – in easily accessible areas is not acceptable.

“Covered entities must review their own circumstances to determine what steps are reasonable to safeguard PHI through disposal, and develop and implement policies and procedures to carry out those steps,” according to HHS. “In determining what is reasonable, covered entities should assess potential risks to patient privacy, as well as consider such issues as the form, type, and amount of PHI to be disposed.”

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Unencrypted laptops present a major risk of data loss. 80% of information theft is due to lost or stolen laptops and other equipment. About 50% of network intrusions are performed with credentials gathered from lost or stolen devices. The penalties for a data breach are severe not only in terms of the monetary fines imposed on the organization, but also the potential loss of trust from customers and suppliers. Encryption software greatly enhances the security of your organization’s data as the information is not compromised if a laptop is lost or stolen.

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Urology clinic suffers data breach

August 5th, 2015

A Montana urology clinic storage unit that housed patient records was broken into and patient data was possibly accessed. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) online breach reporting database shows that 6,500 patients were affected.

Practice manager Tanna Darling mentioned that Urology Associates have sent data breach notification letters to patients. Darling said that “over a few thousand” letters were sent out.

Urology Clinic officials reported that the break-in occurred at the clinic’s storage unit having gated facility. There is possibility that the unauthorized individual was renting a separate storage unit at the facility and therefore had access to the first gate.

“Everything was in disarray, but it honestly didn’t look like they took anything,” Darling said.

Kalispell Police Department Captain Scott Warnell said that the incident is part of a larger trend that is happening across the county, and that the department is making extra patrols on storage units to ensure that unauthorized individuals are not in the area. Patients whose information was possibly accessed will receive one free year of credit monitoring from Urology Associates.

Montana data breach notification law was updated last year.

“Upon discovery or notification of a breach of the security of a data system, a state agency that maintains computerized data containing personal information in the data system shall make reasonable efforts to notify any person whose unencrypted personal information was or is reasonably believed to have been acquired by an unauthorized person,” the law states.

Alertsec strengthens security

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Organizations, especially corporate giants, have to have an information security policy in place that proves they have taken the necessary steps and measures to safeguard the information they gathered. If these policies are not adhered to, the regulators may prosecute.

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