One of the most important problems in healthcare appears to be difficulty preventing data breaches—meaning your private information might not be as safe as you'd expect. In fact, the US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) recently reported that in just the first 1.5 months of 2020, there have been over 30 data breaches affecting healthcare offices. While some of the data was improperly disposed of, most of it was stolen by hackers or viewed by unauthorized people who were not supposed to have access to it.
What to Know About the Latest Medical Data Breaches
The HHS has to report any data breaches that affect 500 or more patients. As of February 13 of this year, the agency had reported that over 1 million people had been affected by data breaches, with the biggest breach being a hacking incident in which almost 200,000 patients were affected.
Other data breaches reported by the HHS this year include the following:
- A Minnesota hospital's data breach affected more than 49,000 patients
- A Texas orthopedic clinic's breach affected over 30,000 patients
- A Maine healthcare provider's breach affected 33,000 patients
- An Oregon rehab facility experienced a data breach that affected over 25,000 patients
In the bigger data breaches, the hackers got access to the data by targeting emails, though one data breach was caused by hackers targeting a network server. And in a few of the reported data breaches—including one that affected over 650,000 patients—the thieves stole a laptop with all the information on it. Apparently, the device was not kept secure enough to prevent this kind of data breach.
Do You Have Any Legal Options After a Healthcare Data Breach?
If your personal information has been stolen from your doctor's office or hospital, you likely feel violated. And unfortunately, as the HHS reported, over a million people have gone through the same experience in the last few months alone. So, what can you do about it?
In most cases, the clinic or hospital where the data was stolen from has sent you information on your options. You might have gotten a letter or email explaining what happened, how the office will prevent this from occurring again, and how to proceed. You might get free credit monitoring for a year so you can keep a close eye on your credit report.
After all, hackers can get a lot of sensitive information from your medical records, including your insurance policy or Medicare numbers, Social Security number, credit card numbers, checking account numbers, your medical history, and much more. If they decide to use any of this sensitive information, your whole identity could be stolen, leaving you with thousands of dollars in bills and years of work trying to fix this problem.
So it's no wonder that many data breach victims want more than just free credit monitoring. If the damages are bad enough, they can initiate—and often win—lawsuits alleging negligent security practices on the part of the medical office. In this way, it's possible for data breaches to lead to medical malpractice cases. If you want to find out if you have reason to proceed with a lawsuit, contact a lawyer who is experienced with this type of case so you can find out more.