May 2024 Healthcare Breach Report

In another banner month for healthcare breaches, the OCR Breach Portal listed 51 incidents affecting 8,468,460 patients. The most affected group was healthcare providers, reporting 38 incidents affecting 2.9 million patients. This was followed by business associates who reported 10 incidents, affecting 5.4 million patients. Health plans also reported 2 incidents, affecting 9,692 patients, and one healthcare clearinghouse reported an incident affecting 1,094 patients. There was one incident of PHI theft reported by a business associate, affecting 1,880 patients. We’ll examine what caused May 2024 healthcare breaches and how they could have been prevented.

39 Hacking Incidents Affected 8.4 Million

The majority of the time, hacking incidents are the main cause of healthcare breaches, and in May 2024, this was the case. There were 39 hacking incidents reported in May 2024. These incidents affected 8,407,641, representing 99% of patients affected by May incidents.

Who reported hacking incidents, and how many patients were affected?

  • 28 healthcare providers, 2,950,131 patients
  • 8 business associates, 5,446,724 patients 
  • 2 health plans, 9,692 patients
  • 1 healthcare clearinghouse, 1,094 patients

How to Prevent Hacking

As hacking incidents have become the leading cause behind healthcare breaches for several years, minimizing your risk of being targeted is crucial.

Security Risk Assessments and Remediation

Security risk assessments (SRAs) are vital for security and compliance. An SRA aims to identify weaknesses and vulnerabilities in your security practices to prepare yourself against potential threats. Once SRAs have been conducted, it is essential to create remediation plans to address any identified deficiencies.

Employee Cybersecurity Training

A significant portion of hacking incidents results from phishing emails. Employee cybersecurity training is essential to your organization’s overall security posture. Employees should be trained on recognizing phishing attempts and what to do if they suspect an incident has occurred.

11 Incidents of Unauthorized Access or Disclosure

There were 11 incidents of unauthorized access or disclosure reported in May 2024. These incidents affected 58,939, representing 0.7% of patients affected by May incidents.

Who reported these incidents, and how many patients were affected?

  • 10 healthcare providers, 42,274 patients
  • 1 business associate, 16,665 patients

How to Prevent Unauthorized Access or Disclosure

As we mentioned, there are two ways in which unauthorized access or disclosures occur – inappropriate employee access or unauthorized access by another entity.

Policies and Procedures and Employee Training

HIPAA policies and procedures are essential to HIPAA compliance as they guide employees on what is appropriate. HIPAA requires employee use and disclosure of PHI to be limited to the minimum necessary to perform their job functions. Your policies and procedures should dictate this, and employees should be trained on the policies and procedures to be aware of their obligations. 

User Authentication, Access Controls, and Audit Controls

To ensure adherence to the minimum necessary standard, you must implement user authentication, access controls, and audit controls. User authentication provides unique login credentials for each employee, while access controls enable administrators to designate different PHI access levels using those unique login credentials. Also, based on the implementation of unique login credentials, audit controls track access to data to ensure that PHI is accessed appropriately by each employee.

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