Rising Cost of Healthcare Data Breaches

August 14, 2015//Ellen Neveux

Last Updated: November 18, 2020

In order to know the true cost of exposed medical records, it’s important to understand why this information is targeted.

Personal medical information is worth 10 times more than credit card data. The reason is simple. Stealing an identity is more lucrative than a single credit card shopping spree. Thieves create entirely new credit (and legal) histories based on the victim’s information. New credit card accounts are established, medical services are charged, and the road to recovery is frustratingly slow.

Recently, The Wall Street Journal did a story on a family from Kansas City, Mo. Kathleen Meiners discovered that someone had stolen her son Bill’s Social Security and medical identification ID. With this information, unknown individuals began billing medical treatments to the Meiners. As medical bills piled up, Kathleen struggled to prove her son never received the outlined care.

WSJ writes, “To clear things up, Mrs. Meiners, who turns 74 on Saturday, took him to the hospital to show he was fine. It didn’t work: She says she spent months fighting collection notices and trying to fix his medical records.”

The article continues to explain the difficult battle victims must fight, not just financially but also resolving life-threatening misinformation. “Victims sometimes only find out when they get a bill or a call from a debt collector. They can wind up with the thief’s health data folded into their own medical charts. A patient’s record may show she has diabetes when she doesn’t, say, or list a blood type that isn’t hers—errors that can lead to dangerous diagnoses or treatments.”

With the accelerated trend in medical record theft, hospitals, medical technology providers, and any organization that stores personal data are feeling the impact alongside the individuals impacted – at least that’s what victims intended to ensure.

A landmark decision in the Neiman Marcus breach case, opened the door to class-action lawsuits following large breaches. In a ruling this July, a U.S. appeals court agreed that even after victims were reimbursed for immediate costs, there was “substantial risk” of unknown future damages. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) also faces multiple lawsuits after their massive breach that affected 4.2 million people.

The cost of compromised medical records and other personally identifiable information is on the rise. Hospitals and medical vendors need to understand all points of vulnerability to safeguard this data. From the perspective of Americans impacted, here is a survey conducted by the Wall Street Journal asking individuals about the worst part of being hacked.

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