How secure is your health data?- POLITICO

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STRONG HEALTH DATA BREACHES: Nearly 50 million Americans had their sensitive health information breached in 2021, more than triple the number in 2018, according to a POLITICO analysis of the latest data from the HHS Office for Civil Rights.

It’s a national problem: According to the analysis, about half of states and Washington, D.C., have seen more than one in 10 residents directly impacted by unauthorized access to their health information, raising significant privacy and security concerns. security. And piracy accounted for more than 80% of all such breaches last year, up from 35% in 2016.

Healthcare cybersecurity experts say an increase in the hacking of financially lucrative health information and ransomware, greater threat awareness and therefore increased reporting, reliance on remote working and the digital pivot of health care are all causing the swell. Healthcare information is highly coveted by hackers, who can sell the data on the dark web or use it for fraudulent purposes, including false health insurance claims and identity theft.

“Unfortunately, the industry is a pretty easy choice, and they get there because they get paid,” said Mac McMillan, CEO of cybersecurity firm CynergisTek. “His [not] going to slow down until we get more serious about stopping it, or blocking it, or being more efficient. From the cybercriminals’ perspective, they succeed, they get paid; why would they stop?

This left us wondering: Is it obvious that our health records are more susceptible to hacking in the digital age?

The healthcare industry has long pushed for data to flow more freely, with new government regulations and private sector efforts aimed at making it easier to move patient records with them.

“Because data is starting to move more freely, that’s sort of the cost of doing business,” said Aaron Maguregui, senior counsel at Foley & Lardner.

But the fragmentation of healthcare data has an upside: Breaches don’t always affect a person’s entire health record because information doesn’t move easily from one system to another, Harry said. Greenspun, partner and chief medical officer at Guidehouse, a consulting firm.

The impact: Although tens of millions of people have had their health information hacked in 2021, not all of them will suffer significant consequences. Many won’t realize their health data has been compromised or understand what it means, said Carter Groome, CEO of First Health Advisory, a health risk management consultancy. Kirk Nahra, privacy attorney at WilmerHale, says few people are significantly affected.

Some people will be more concerned about breaches than others, said Guidehouse partner Cindi Bassford, which focuses on cybersecurity.

“If you think there’s confidential medical information about you floating around, it’s eating away at you because you really don’t know the impact,” Greenspun said.

Welcome to Future Pulse, where we explore the convergence of healthcare and technology. Share your news and comments: @_BenLeonard_.

Harry Thomas @DrHarryThomas: ‘First day in our new office and a nice feature is that in addition to the exam rooms we have these’Expand rooms‘ to do telehealth.

CDC PUSH TO STRENGTHEN DATA: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is asking staff to better collect and analyze public health data, report POLITICO’s Erin Banco and Krista Mahr.

In an email obtained by POLITICO last week, Dan Jernigan, the CDC’s deputy director for science and public health surveillance, pointed to a letter from director Rochelle Walensky.

“Among the things Dr. Walensky shared in his letter are five big commitments that will push us to work more collaboratively as we shift from a ‘my data’ to ‘our data’ mindset,” reads -on in the email.

The email is the first official indication the agency is taking further steps to address data issues that have hampered the agency’s response to Covid-19. It comes as lawmakers ask the agency to strengthen data collection ahead of future pandemics, allowing it to be more easily shared between health departments, hospitals and the federal government. Jernigan told POLITICO the push will include unifying federal and state public health data systems, ensuring information is real-time and helping states hire workers to collect and analyze data.

The CDC has struggled to keep pace with Covid-19 largely because of the country’s antiquated public health infrastructure, which relies on underfunded state health departments to collect and submit data. at the CDC.

RISING RUSSIAN CYBER THREAT: In light of what he called new intelligence, President Joe Biden said Monday that Russia was “exploring” possible cyberattacks on the United States, POLITICO’s Maggie Miller and Sam Sabin report.

“The longer Putin’s back to the wall is, the tougher the tactics he can use…one of the tools he’s most likely to use in my opinion, in our opinion, is cyberattacks,” Biden said Monday, calling on companies to “immediately bolster your cyber defenses.”

Escalation: Some healthcare cybersecurity experts told POLITICO’s Ben Leonard that they have seen an increase in cyber threats potentially linked to Russia in recent days.

“People just see more traffic, no more email bombs, so to speak,” said Mac McMillan, CEO of cybersecurity firm CynergisTek. “They’re more of a nuisance at the moment, not full fledged attacks that do anything, but clearly there’s stuff happening now.”

The threat has also intensified among Ukrainian providers of healthcare organizations. Carter Groome, CEO of First Health Advisory, a healthcare risk management consultancy, said malware attacks against Ukrainian targets increased about 10-fold over the two weeks.

The sector is also an attractive target for hackers given the wealth of sensitive information in health records and the perceived willingness of healthcare organizations to pay ransoms to unlock systems because disrupting care delivery can be catastrophic.

AUDIO ONLY TELEHEALTH SURGES: Audio-only telehealth was used more often than video visits for primary care and behavioral health at federally licensed health centers between August 2020 and August 2021, according to new research from the RAND Corporation.

The study adds to the volume of the literature showing the widespread use of audio-only virtual care during the pandemic. Late in the study period, when vaccinations were widespread, in-person visits became more popular than audio visits only for primary care, but not for behavioral health.

Proponents have touted audio-only telehealth as a way to extend care to barriers to people’s connectivity. Last month, an HHS report found that low-income people used audio-only virtual care significantly more than high-income people.

The HHS report pointed out research suggesting video telehealth is better than audio-only in “many clinical settings.” The RAND report called for empirical testing of how audio-only care affects quality of care.

“While audio-only visits have clearly played a critical role in maintaining access to care during the public health emergency, their continued role in providing care to low-income populations requires careful consideration,” says the RAND report.

PASSPORTS CIAO, VAX: Italy requires proof of vaccination against Covid-19 to enter indoor public spaces on May 1, reports Carlo Martuscelli of POLITICO Europe.

The country also ends its state of emergency and proof of outdoor vaccination requirements at the end of March, while lifting indoor mask mandates on April 30. Health Minister Roberto Speranza has touted the country’s Green Pass vaccine passport system, saying it has helped avoid lockdowns.

Several European countries, including France and Belgium, have recently removed virus restrictions. Italy’s measures come despite a rise in Covid-19 cases.

As large parts of the world with wide access to vaccines attempt to switch from Covid-19, the next step for digital Covid-19 vaccine IDs – commonly known as “passports” – is unclear.

In the United States, many major cities like New York which once required proof of vaccination to enter many public spaces no longer does, although businesses may still require it. It is uncertain whether proof of vaccination requirements would come back in the event of a surge, with governors and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle reluctant to reimpose the restrictions.

Some US states have touted digital credentials for school proof of vaccination requirements, and they could be used for a wider range of health information.

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