Providers, health plans and their business associates reported 44 data breaches to the federal government last month.
That’s the highest number of healthcare breaches reported in a single month since HHS’ Office for Civil Rights began maintaining its online database of healthcare breaches in 2010, surpassing the previous record—exactly one year ago, April 2018—when healthcare groups reported 42 breaches to the agency.
In spite of the record number of incidents reported last month, April experienced a downtick in the number of people who had data exposed. Healthcare breaches reported in April compromised data from 686,953 people, down 29% from the 963,794 people affected by breaches reported in March. Two breaches reported in April each exposed data on more than 100,000 people.
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The largest breach, which compromised data on up to 206,695 people, involved a ransomware attack at Doctors’ Management Service, a company that provides medical billing services to hospitals and physician practices. Doctors’ Management Service reported the data breach to the OCR on April 22, two years after the incident began.
The company said patients seen at 38 of its client locations may have had information comprised in the data breach.
Doctors’ Management Service said it first noticed technical issues with its computer network in December 2018. Upon investigation, the company discovered its server had been encrypted with GandCrab, a ransomware variant, and determined that an unauthorized user had accessed the network beginning in April 2017.
The company said it restored its patient data through backups, and therefore did not pay any ransom.
“On February 15, 2019, our forensic investigator reported that while the investigation could not determine whether personal health information was actually viewed or downloaded that type of activity could not be ruled out,” Doctors’ Management Service said in a notice signed by its CEO Timothy DiBona and posted to its website April 22.
The second-largest breach in April took place at Centrelake Medical Group, which operates a network of imaging facilities in southern California.
In February, Centrelake Medical Group discovered its information system had been infected with a virus that restricted access to its files. As part of its investigation, the group found what it called “suspicious activity” on its network dating back to January and lasting until the virus infection in February, according to a notice posted online April 16.
The affected servers housed files and software applications that contained information on up to 197,661 patients who visited Centrelake Medical Group.
Doctors’ Management Service and Centrelake Medical Group’s data breaches represent the sixth- and seventh-largest breaches reported this year, respectively. The two companies had not responded to a request for comment at deadline.
Nearly two-thirds of organizations—including Doctors’ Management Service and Centrelake Medical Group—attributed breaches they reported in April to hacking or IT incidents. The remaining breaches resulted from theft, loss, improper disposal, or unauthorized access or disclosure of patient records.