HIPAA & Health Information
Kidnapped Data: Healthcare Ransomware Attacks
Ransomware attacks are one of the largest threats to the healthcare industry and a tough cybersecurity problem to address. From 2016-2021, there were almost 400 ransomware attacks on healthcare organizations in the US. It is estimated that such attacks exposed the personal healthcare data of over 40 million patients. Since these attacks cannot typically be resolved without paying the ransom, it is important to invest in preventative measures to protect healthcare data from potential breach.
The Need for Federal Regulation of Tracking Pixels to Protect Patient Data
In June 2022, a nonprofit news site called The Markup released a report stating that hospitals using Meta Pixel may be releasing patient data to Meta Platforms, Inc. (previously Facebook, Inc.). Since this report was released, many of the hospitals identified in the report removed pixel technology from their websites. In addition, some hospitals have released public breach notices and reported potential data privacy breaches to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR). Most recently, on October 20, 2022, Advocate Aurora Health, a large health system located in the Midwest, released a notice publicly announcing its potential pixel breach, which may affect as many as three million patients.
A Collaborative Effort in Defeating Healthcare Cyber Attacks
In an effort to improve cybersecurity in the healthcare sector, a bipartisan bill was introduced in Congress on September 13, 2022, by Republican Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and Democrat Jason Crow of Colorado. The Healthcare Cybersecurity Act relies on a partnership between the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to work together in improving cybersecurity in the healthcare sector. The Act has been introduced as a result of record high increases in health data breaches across the country over the last several years. The goal is to provide resources for training and heighten efforts taken across the nation to mitigate cybersecurity risk. The Act would not only improve patient care but save healthcare cost by taking a proactive approach.
Consumers are Suing Dozens of Companies for Sharing Tracking Data
A privacy class action that first exploded in September of this year highlights consumers suing a handful of companies for violating the federal Video Privacy Protection Act. The multitude of class actions hold the Meta Platforms Inc’s Pixel tracking tool accountable for the tracking of consumer data from online platforms. News outlets, sports organizations, and streaming services are all facing lawsuits related the alleged complaints.
Digital Footprints in the Post-Roe Era
On June 24, the Supreme Court officially overturned Roe v. Wade. In doing so, it declared that there was no longer a constitutional right to abortion, allowing state police power to determine its legality. Immediately after this decision, trigger laws went into effect across a quarter of the states, making abortions illegal. Post Dobbs, information collected on personal devices, especially through period-tracking and telemedicine apps, is at risk of being exposed and utilized as criminal evidence.
Imperative Progress in Your Data Privacy and Protection
Amanda Scott Associate Editor Loyola University Chicago School of Law, JD 2024 In June 2022, a draft of a bipartisan bicameral bill known as the American Data Privacy and Protection Act was introduced. This bill was proposed as a replacement to current laws to further protect and strengthen federal data privacy and protection regulations. This …
Meta Sued for Unlawful Collection of Patient Data
A recent class action lawsuit alleges Meta (the parent company of Facebook) used an illegal tracking tool to retrieve patient information from over 664 hospitals for marketing purposes. Meta and a handful of US-based hospitals have violated privacy laws such as HIPAA that control the means and methods for lawfully handling covered medical information. John Doe filed the case on June 17, 2022, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, seeking class action certification for a jury trial to recover compensatory damages and attorney’s fees.
Patient Privacy in the Post Roe Era
On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court finally handed down its long-awaited opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. In this decision, the Court set aside nearly 50 years of precedent and unequivocally overruled Roe v. Wade, declaring that there is no Constitutional right to abortion. This decision will unsurprisingly change laws and significantly impact millions of people across the country. Although pro-choice activists have been bracing for this outcome and mobilizing to maintain access to abortions, they have to contend with a consideration that did not exist to the same magnitude the last time that abortion was illegal in the US: anti-abortion laws’ impact on data privacy.
Senate Brings Bipartisan Attempt to Update Health Privacy Regulations
On February 9, a group of senators led by Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana introduced a new bill, the Health Data Use and Privacy Commission Act (the “Act”), in attempt to revitalize current legislation regarding the protection and use of health data. The bill also has the support of a number of representatives from within the healthcare industry, including Epic, IBM, and Teladoc Health, as well as a number of professional associations like the American College of Cardiology, the Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness, and the Association of Clinical Research Organizations.
The Quiet Corporate Health Cybersecurity Struggle Playing Out in Plain Sight
Cyberattacks on the healthcare industry have reached a fever pitch. In 2020 alone, there was a drastic increase in healthcare organization cybersecurity breaches. In 2021, the average cost of a healthcare data breach increased by over $2 million to $9.23 million. Healthcare providers continue to be the most targeted industry for cybersecurity breaches, with over ninety-three percent of healthcare organizations experiencing a data breach over the past three years. 306 breaches of unsecured protected health information (“PHI”) impacting 500 or more individuals were reported to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) in 2020. Yet healthcare organizations continue to be ill-equipped to handle this growing problem.