At least 29 million health records breached by overt criminal activity

Between 2010 and 2013, data breaches of protected health information reported by HIPAA-covered entities increased and involved approximately 29 million records, with most data breaches resulting from overt criminal activity, according to a study in the April 14 issue of JAMA.

Reports of data breaches have increased during the past decade. Compared with other industries, these breaches are estimated to be the most costly in health care; however, few studies have detailed their characteristics and scope. Vincent Liu, M.D., M.S., of the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research, Oakland, Calif., and colleagues evaluated an online database maintained by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services describing data breaches of unencrypted protected health information (i.e., individually identifiable information) reported by entities (health plans and clinicians) covered under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The researchers included breaches affecting 500 individuals or more reported as occurring from 2010 through 2013, accounting for 82 percent of all reports.

The authors identified 949 breaches affecting 29.1 million records. Six breaches involved more than 1 million records each and the number of reported breaches increased over time (from 214 in 2010 to 265 in 2013). Breaches were reported in every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Five states (California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Illinois) accounted for 34 percent of all breaches. However, when adjusted by population estimates, the states with the highest adjusted number of breaches and affected records varied.

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