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Health care data hacks are on the rise

Data: McCoy Jr. et al., 2018, "Temporal Trends and Characteristics of Reportable Health Data Breaches, 2010-2017"; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

More than 175 million health care records have been breached since 2010, and they’re getting more vulnerable every year, according to a new analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

By the numbers: The total number of breaches is increasing — from 99 in 2010 to 344 in 2017. Doctors and hospitals are breached most frequently, but insurers’ breaches expose the most individual records.

Data breaches that affect more than 500 people have to be reported to the federal government. There have been more than 2,100 of them since 2010.

Between the lines: A handful of high-profile hacks against large insurance companies in 2015 seem to have been especially damaging.

  • The cumulative number of records exposed from doctors and hospitals has risen steadily every year. The total number that came from insurance companies, however, skyrocketed in 2015 — then leveled off.
  • Similarly, the total number of records exposed through hacking (as opposed to other types of breaches) jumped from about 3 million in 2014 to 115 million in 2015. It is still climbing.
  • 2015 saw several big health care hacks, including a historic breach of Anthem’s records.
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