Doctor examining a digital medical record on a futuristic interface screen with patient data.

What to Do When Your Patient Data Is Compromised?

Imagine waking up one morning to discover that a data breach has exposed your most intimate medical information. Your diagnoses, medications, and even your social security number are now in the hands of criminals who could use this sensitive data for fraudulent activities or to damage your reputation.

The thought alone is enough to make your stomach churn and your heart race. In today’s digital age, healthcare data breaches have become an all-too-common occurrence, leaving patients feeling vulnerable and helpless. But what exactly is a healthcare data breach, and what can you do when your patient data is compromised?

Read on to learn more about the topic. For specific advice about your situation and to understand your legal options for obtaining relief, contact a Medical data breach attorney near you for a free consultation.

What Is a Healthcare Data Breach?

A healthcare data breach occurs when someone accesses, uses, or discloses sensitive patient information without proper authorization. This can include personal details such as names, addresses, birthdates, and social security numbers, as well as confidential medical information like diagnoses, treatments, and insurance details. Healthcare data breaches can occur in various ways, such as through hacking, malware attacks, theft of physical devices containing patient data, or even inadvertent disclosures by healthcare staff.

How Common Are Healthcare Data Breaches?

Unfortunately, healthcare data breaches have become increasingly prevalent in recent years. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there were 724 healthcare data breaches of 500 or more records reported in 2021 alone, affecting over 45 million individuals. This represents a significant increase from previous years, with the healthcare sector consistently ranking among the most targeted industries for cyber-attacks.

Several factors contribute to the high frequency of healthcare data breaches. First, the healthcare industry has been slower to adopt robust cybersecurity measures compared to other sectors, leaving many organizations vulnerable to attacks. Additionally, the value of healthcare data on the black market is significantly higher than other types of personal information, making it an attractive target for cybercriminals. A single patient record can fetch up to $1,000, as it contains a wealth of sensitive information that hackers can use for various nefarious purposes.

Moreover, the increasing reliance on electronic health records (EHRs) and connected medical devices has expanded the attack surface for potential breaches. While these technologies have improved patient care and streamlined healthcare processes, they have also introduced new vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit.

What Are the Possible Consequences of a Patient Data Breach?

The consequences of a patient data breach can be far-reaching and devastating. Some of the potential risks include:

  • Identity theft and financial fraud: Criminals can use stolen personal information to open credit accounts, file fraudulent tax returns, or obtain loans in the victim’s name.
  • Medical identity theft: In this type of fraud, a thief uses the victim’s health insurance information to obtain medical services or prescription drugs, which can lead to erroneous entries in the victim’s medical records and potentially impact their future care.
  • Reputational damage: Individuals could leverage sensitive medical information, such as mental health diagnoses or HIV status, for blackmail or public exposure, leading to embarrassment, discrimination, or strained relationships.
  • Delayed or improper medical treatment: If a hacker alters a patient’s medical records during a data breach, it could result in misdiagnoses, incorrect treatments, or delays in receiving necessary care.
  • Emotional distress: The invasion of privacy and loss of control over personal information can cause significant emotional trauma, leading to anxiety, depression, and loss of trust in healthcare providers.

How Do I Know if My Data Has Been Breached?

Hacker in a dark room, wearing a hoodie, working on multiple computer screens with code.

In many cases, healthcare organizations are required by law to notify affected individuals when a data breach occurs. Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Breach Notification Rule, covered entities must notify patients within 60 days of discovering a breach that affects 500 or more individuals. For smaller breaches, they must notify affected individuals and the Department of Health and Human Services annually.

However, not all healthcare providers may be aware of a breach immediately, and some may fail to report incidents altogether. As a patient, it’s essential to remain vigilant and watch for signs that your data may have been compromised, such as:

  • Receiving unexpected bills or collection notices for medical services you did not receive.
  • Noticing unfamiliar healthcare providers or treatments listed on your explanation of benefits (EOB) statements.
  • Being denied insurance coverage due to inaccurate information in your medical records.
  • Receiving unsolicited calls or emails offering medical products or services.

If you suspect that your patient data has been breached, you should contact your healthcare provider immediately to discuss your concerns and determine the appropriate course of action. You can also contact an attorney in your area who handles healthcare data breaches for advice and assistance.

What Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider?

When you (or your attorney) reach out to your healthcare provider about a potential data breach, it’s important to ask the right questions to ensure that you have a clear understanding of the situation and the steps being taken to address it. Some key questions to consider include:

  • What specific information was involved in the breach, and how many individuals were affected?
  • When did the breach occur, and when was it discovered?
  • How did the breach happen, and what measures have been implemented to prevent similar incidents in the future?
  • What steps is the healthcare organization taking to mitigate the potential consequences of the breach, such as providing free credit monitoring or identity theft protection services?
  • Who can you contact for further information or assistance, and what resources are available to help you navigate the aftermath of the breach?

What Steps Should I Take After a Patient Data Breach?

If you have confirmed that a data breach has compromised your patient data, there are several steps you can take to protect yourself and minimize the potential impact:

  1. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports to notify creditors that they should take extra precautions to verify your identity before granting credit in your name.
  2. Consider placing a security freeze on your credit files, which prevents new accounts from being opened in your name without your explicit consent.
  3. Review your credit reports and financial statements regularly for any suspicious activity or unauthorized transactions.
  4. Monitor your medical records and EOBs closely for any inaccuracies or discrepancies that could indicate medical identity theft.
  5. If you suspect that someone used your information for fraudulent purposes, file a report with the appropriate authorities, such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or your local law enforcement agency.
  6. Take advantage of any free credit monitoring or identity theft protection services the breached healthcare organization offers. However, be cautious of unsolicited offers that may be scams.
  7. Stay informed about the breach and any updates from the healthcare provider. Consider seeking legal advice if you believe that your rights have been violated or that you have suffered harm due to the breach.

How Can an Attorney Help?

Doctor interacting with a digital medical interface displaying various healthcare icons and data on a laptop.

In the wake of a patient data breach, an experienced attorney can be an invaluable resource for protecting your rights and seeking compensation for any damages you may have suffered. A knowledgeable data breach attorney can:

  • Evaluate your case and determine whether you have grounds for legal action against the healthcare organization or other responsible parties.
  • Advise you on the appropriate steps to take to mitigate the potential consequences of the breach and preserve your legal rights.
  • Represent you in negotiations with the healthcare provider or their insurance company to seek a fair settlement for any losses or damages you have incurred.
  • File a lawsuit on your behalf if necessary to hold the responsible parties accountable and pursue compensation for your damages, which may include monetary losses, emotional distress, and other related expenses.

Contact an Experienced Healthcare Data Breach Attorney Today

Healthcare data breaches are a serious and growing threat to patient privacy and security. If you suspect that your patient data has been compromised, it’s crucial to take swift action to protect yourself and minimize the potential impact on your life and well-being. By staying informed, asking the right questions, and taking proactive steps to secure your information, you can reduce your risk of falling victim to identity theft or other fraudulent activities.

If you believe that a healthcare data breach has adversely affected you and you need legal assistance, the experienced consumer protection attorneys at Kazerouni Law Group, APC, are here to help. With decades of collective experience handling data breach cases, our team is prepared to fight for your rights and hold negligent healthcare organizations accountable for their failure to protect sensitive information. 

Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your case and learn more about how we can help you navigate the complex legal landscape of healthcare data breaches.

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