About 56,000 records hacked at Northwestern Memorial HealthCare system

About 56,000 records hacked at Northwestern Memorial HealthCare system

by Valerie Dimond, Contributing Reporter | September 08, 2020
Business Affairs Cyber Security

Also in July, Lifespan Health System Affiliated Covered Entity (Lifespan ACE), a nonprofit health system based in Rhode Island, agreed to pay $1,040,000 to the Office for Civil Rights at HHS and to implement a corrective action plan to settle potential violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act privacy and security rules related to the theft of an unencrypted laptop.

Lifespan ACE reported the theft of an affiliated hospital employee’s laptop, which contained electronic protected health information including, patients’ names, medical record numbers, demographic information, and medication information. The breach affected 20,431 individuals.

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Interestingly, and despite the COVID-19 outbreak, data analyzed from HHS in August shows that the number of patient data records breached dramatically declined during the early stages of the pandemic.

“A combination of factors come into play for the numbers declining so precipitously during a global pandemic, including healthcare organizations misunderstanding HIPAA and COVID-19 exceptions issued during the pandemic, healthcare organizations simply being too busy to report, or organizations having been so distracted by the pandemic they are not aware they have already been breached,” said Drex DeFord, Executive Healthcare Strategist, CI Security, which provided the information in its 2020 H1 Healthcare Data Breach Report. “With the likely notion that most healthcare organizations are not accurately reporting attacks and breaches, this draws attention to the fact that there will likely be a dramatic increase in discovery in the next six months.”

Northwestern Memorial Hospital did not respond to a request for more information about its own data breach.

But it did announce that four Northwestern Medicine hospitals were recognized this year by U.S. News & World Report in its 2020-2021 Best Hospitals rankings, with Northwestern Memorial Hospital retaining its position as the No. 1 hospital in Illinois and Chicago.

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