HIPAA Breaches Related to EMR

Posted on March 25, 2010 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Someone sent me an email with this link to the list of HIPAA breaches affecting 500 or more individuals. One of my popular searches on EMR and HIPAA is about HIPAA lawsuits, so you can imagine the lawyers are salivating over this list.

In a quick count, I found 31 on the list that were desktop, laptop, or other computer related device. In another quick count, I counted 46 on the list (feel free to correct my counts, but the range is right). The person who emailed me suggested that most of the list was breaches of EMR. I personally don’t think that’s the case.

One thing seems pretty certain. Technology has opened the doors for larger breaches. In the paper world, it’s a little harder to lose/misplace/steal 500 or more individuals information. It happens, but it’s much easier in the digital world. Plus, there’s a lot more vagueness in technology when a breach happens.

In the digital world, it’s often a best guess about what happened during a breach. Most of the time breaches happen in the technical world, they probably didn’t give a rip about the healthcare data. However, there’s the potential that they did, so you get to report it. Enough of that tangent.

One other problem with the assertion that most of this list is from an EMR breach is that I was surprised how many insurance providers were on the list. In fact, it seems like a large portion of the breaches were insurance lists probably. Not sure that’s an EMR breach.

I think it’s also interesting to note that this list of breaches is probably far below the reality. This is just the list of reported cases. I can’t imagine how many breaches happen that go unreported.

Of course, this begs the question of whether we should be moving to electronic records at all if there’s more possibility for breaches. My answer is that of course we should. Although, it should give us real pause as we consider the security of those systems as well. Stuff happens, but we shouldn’t put the possibility of breaches make us set aside the benefits of technology.