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Damage from Healthcare Data Breaches Spreading

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media, August 30, 2012

The causes are numerous and range in severity. Theft is by far the most common, accounting for more than half of all breaches:

  • Theft — 52%
  • Unauthorized access —22%
  • Loss 11%
  • Hacking —6%
  • Improper disposal —5%
  • Unknown —3%
  • Other —1%

Breaches that involved the loss of healthcare data affected the most individuals—6.1 million. Theft affected 2.4 million, unknown cause affected 1.9 million, and loss affected 1.2 million. Unauthorized access, hacking, improper disposal and other combined affected about 464,000 individuals.

The association between laptop computers and healthcare data breaches seems obvious, but access to other portable electronic devices such as thumb drives, backup tapes, CDs, DVDs, and X-Ray films accounted for 28% of the breaches and affected 8.2 million people.

This category of information assets is expected to continue to pose a risk due to the mobility and small size of the devices, which makes them more likely to be lost or stolen, the report says.

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