With barely a week passing without another HIPAA data breach, the news that they are on the increase is no surprise. This includes breaches of Protected Health Information, which present special challenges to doctors and other health care providers.

“The number of HIPAA data breaches has been increasing in recent years, and the most frequent type was theft”, Marion Jenkins, PhD, said here at the annual meeting of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.

Since 2009, there have been 1,185 HIPAA data breaches as defined by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), said Jenkins, who is chief strategy officer at 3t Systems, a healthcare consulting firm in Denver. And the pace is accelerating, with an increase of more than 50% in the last 12 months. Breaches have so far affected 133 million patient records.

“You don’t have to be a really large organization to end up on the list,” Jenkins said. The largest breach involved 80 million records at the health insurer Anthem.

“secure all electronically protected health information against accidental or intentional causes of: unauthorized access, theft, loss or destruction, from either internal or external sources,”

Healthcare providers should also be aware that in addition to regulating the privacy of paper records, HIPAA also covers data from all types of electronic media — not just EHRs and data stored on laptops and computers, but also any data that winds up on memory sticks and cards, smartphones, and even fax machines and copiers, since most of them aren’t just fax machines and copiers any more but also function as scanners and printers, which means they hold electronic data, Jenkins said.

Cloud services present special challenges because networks and services are frequently provided by companies that have not taken the extra steps to achieve HIPAA compliance because most of their customers don’t need it.  But if you are in healthcare, odds are you do need it.  RingRx can help you avoid HIPAA data breaches involving healthcare information in your communications systems.