Information Week, June 28, 2011
While patients and doctors often worry about medical records being hacked by cybercriminals and Internet snoops, the most common cause of health data breaches is physical theft of computing gear, according to reports by the U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services. Under the HITECH Act, HHS is required to post a list of incidents involving breaches and unsecured protected health information affecting 500 or more people. The HHS listing of the incidents reveals the top causes of breaches to be theft, not hacking of data. Of the 288 HIPAA breaches listed on the HHS site, physical theft is at the root of more than 49% of the violations, according to analysis by software research and consulting firm, Software Advisor. Meanwhile, human error and careless or accidental physical losses -- such as losing a laptop with patient data -- accounted for 14% of the incidents; unauthorized access and disclosure was involved in 16% of the casesp; and improper disposal was the root of 5% of the incidents.