HIPAA Breach News

Continuum Health Alliance Data Breach Affects 377,000 Consensus Medical Group Patients

Marlton, NJ-based Continuum Health Alliance has recently confirmed that it has experienced a security incident that exposed the data of 377,119 patients of its client, Consensus Medical Group, a physician-owned medical group in Evesham, NJ. Continuum identified unauthorized activity within its network on October 19, 2023, and after taking steps to secure its systems, third-party cybersecurity specialists were engaged to identify the suspicious activity. The forensic investigation confirmed that an unauthorized third party had gained access to some of its systems between October 18 and October 19, and acquired certain files.

On February 16, 2024, Continuum announced on its website that it was investigating the incident while the investigation was ongoing. The file review was completed on March 8, 2024, when it was confirmed that the exposed data included patients’ names and Social Security numbers. Continuum then worked to verify the information and obtain up-to-date address information, and notification letters were mailed on April 29, 2024.

Continuum has implemented additional safeguards to prevent further security incidents and has provided additional training to its workforce. The affected individuals have been offered complimentary credit monitoring and identity theft protection services for 12 months.

Guardant Health Discovers Online Exposure of Patient Data

Guardant Health, a medical laboratory in Redwood City, CA, that performs cancer screening tests on samples provided by physicians and hospitals, has recently notified patients of some of its clients that their protected health information has been exposed online. Guardant Health did not state in its notification letters when it discovered the data exposure, only that an employee inadvertently uploaded a file containing patient data to an online platform in October 2020. Guardant Health immediately removed the file when the error was discovered, and on March 4, 2024, it was confirmed that unidentified third parties downloaded the file between September 8, 2023, and February 28, 2024.

The protected health information in the file varied from patient to patient and included some or all of the following: name, age, medical record and identification numbers, and medical information such as treatment information, dates of treatment, and test results. No financial information or Social Security numbers were present in the file. Guardant Health said it has enhanced its technical controls and has provided further employee training to prevent similar incidents in the future. The breach has been reported to regulators but is not yet shown on the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights breach portal, so it is currently unclear how many individuals have been affected.

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BioPlus Specialty Pharmacy Services Proposes Settlement to Resolve Data Breach Lawsuit

BioPlus Specialty Pharmacy Services has proposed a settlement to resolve a class action lawsuit that was filed in response to a 2021 data breach that exposed the data of up to 350,000 patients. Hackers gained access to the BioPlus network for more than 2 weeks between October and November 2021, and potentially stole names, dates of birth, contact information, health insurance information, prescription information, and Social Security numbers. The Florida specialty pharmacy chain notified the affected individuals within a month and offered them complimentary credit monitoring services.

A lawsuit was filed over the data breach alleging BioPlus should have prevented the breach and could have if reasonable cybersecurity measures had been implemented and industry-standard security best practices had been followed. BioPlus disagreed with the allegations; however, a settlement has been proposed to bring the legal action to an end. BioPlus has not admitted liability or any wrongdoing related to the cyberattack and data breach.

Under the terms of the proposed settlement, class members may submit claims of up to $7,550 and will be reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses incurred as a result of the data breach. The maximum claim permitted depends on whether Social Security numbers were compromised. If they were, class members can claim a cash payment of $50 and can claim up to $7,500 for documented expenses incurred as a result of the data breach, including 3 hours of lost time at $25 per hour, and any unreimbursed losses to identity theft and fraud.

Class members whose Social Security numbers were not breached cannot claim a cash payment and claims will be limited to a maximum of $750, including 2 hours of lost time at $25 per hour. Any individual who wishes to object to or be excluded from the settlement must do so by June 18, 2024, and all claims must be submitted by the same date. The settlement has received preliminary approval from the court and the final settlement hearing is scheduled for August 22, 2024. The plaintiff and class were represented by attorneys at Morgan & Morgan and Markovits, Stock, & DeMarco LLC.

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Federal Judge Tosses CommonSpirit Health Data Breach Lawsuit Due to Lack of Standing

A federal court judge has recommended a class action lawsuit against CommonSpririt Health over its 2022 data breach should be dismissed due to the failure of the plaintiff to demonstrate that they had been harmed by the data breach.

CommonSpirit Health suffered a ransomware attack on October 2, 2022, that affected more than 100 CommonSpirit Health facilities across the United States. A threat actor gained access to its systems on September 16, 2022, and had access to those systems until October 3, 2022. The forensic investigation and document review confirmed that the protected health information of more than 623,000 patients had been exposed. The exposed data included full names, addresses, healthcare providers, medical record numbers, treatment/prescription information, dates of medical services, other health insurance information, and patient’s facility/account numbers.

Multiple class action lawsuits were filed against CommonSpririt Health over the cyberattack and data breach which made similar claims. The lawsuits alleged CommonSpirit Health was negligent due to the failure to implement reasonable and appropriate safeguards to ensure the privacy of the protected health information it held and delayed issuing breach notifications, which were not sent until April 5, 2023.

One of those lawsuits, Bonnie Maser v. CommonSpirit Health, alleged that the plaintiff suffered injuries as a result of the breach, including more than $3,000 in bank account fraud that led to the closure of her account. As a result of the fraud, the plaintiff could not afford to pay her rent, lost her housing, her credit score dropped 60 points, and she claimed to continue to suffer harm, including panic attacks caused by the stress of the data breach. Maser’s lawsuit alleged negligence, breach of implied contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and unjust enrichment.

CommonSpirit Health argued that the plaintiff failed to allege a concrete or imminent harm to support Article III standing, failed to adequately allege the minimum amount in controversy under the Class Action Fairness Act, and failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. U.S. Magistrate Judge Suan Prose recommended that the lawsuit be dismissed due to a lack of Article III standing, as the plaintiff failed to demonstrate that the fraudulent charges were fairly traceable to the data breach.

This was the second such lawsuit against CommonSpirit Health to be tossed due to a lack of standing.  Two lawsuits against CommonSpirit Health that were filed in Illinois and were consolidated into a single lawsuit – Jose Antonio Koch individually and on behalf of his two minor children, and another by Leeroy Perkins – was also dismissed due to a lack of standing by District Court Judge Harry D. Leineweber.

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Almost 500,000 Individuals Affected by Designed Receivable Solutions Data Breach

The Cypress, CA-based revenue cycle management company, Designed Receivable Solutions (DRS), has recently confirmed the details of a data breach that was reported to the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights on March 23, 2024, as involving the protected health information of 129,584 individuals, and the Maine Attorney General as affecting 498,686 individuals.

On January 22, 2024, DRS identified suspicious activity within its network. Third-party cybersecurity specialists were engaged to investigate the incident and determine the cause of the activity. The investigation confirmed that an unauthorized actor accessed its systems and viewed and exfiltrated files from its systems. On March 8, 2024, after a time-consuming and detailed review of the files, DRS confirmed that they contained the personal and protected health information of current and former patients of its healthcare clients.

Following that determination, DRS has been working with the affected clients to review and verify the affected information and obtain up-to-date contact information to allow notification letters to be issued.  DRS said the types of data involved varied from individual to individual and may have included names, addresses, dates of birth, health insurance information, dates of service, and Social Security numbers. DRS has reviewed its policies and procedures related to data privacy and is taking steps to reduce the risk of a similar incident in the future and has offered the affected individuals complimentary credit monitoring services.

As OCR recently confirmed in a website Q&A regarding breach notification letters, HIPAA-covered entities are ultimately responsible for ensuring notification letters are sent to the affected individuals when there is a data breach at a business associate, but the covered entity may delegate the responsibility of providing individual notices to the business associate.

DRS is issuing notification letters on behalf of the following covered entity clients:

  • Air Methods
  • AMG Healthcare Management Services
  • CAN Emergency Physicians
  • Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
  • CHA Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, L.P.
  • Core Orthopaedics Medical Center
  • GEM Physicians Group
  • Marshall Medical Center
  • OptumCare Management, LLC
  • Redlands Community Hospital
  • Ridgecrest Regional Hospital
  • South Coast ER Medical Group
  • Southland Medical Corporation
  • Springhill Emergency Physicians
  • Sycamore Physicians, LLC
  • USC Arcadia Hospital (formerly Methodist Hospital of Southern California)
  • Valkyrie Clinical Trials, Inc.

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Patient Data Stolen from Livanova in October 2023 Ransomware Attack

The medical device manufacturer Livanova, the Massachusetts community behavioral health center Aspire Health Alliance, and Santa Rosa Behavioral Healthcare Hospital in California have experienced ransomware attacks that exposed patient data.

Livanova, London, UK

Livanova, a UK-headquartered medical device manufacturer specializing in cardiac surgery and neuromodulation devices, has suffered a ransomware attack that disrupted portions of its IT systems. The ransomware attack was discovered on November 19, 2023, and the forensic investigation confirmed that hackers gained access to its network on October 26, 2023. The LockBit ransomware group claimed responsibility for the attack.

Livanova announced in a SEC filing in November that it was dealing with a cyberattack; however, it was initially unclear to what extent patient data was involved. On April 10, 2024, Livanova confirmed that the personal and protected health information of U.S. patients had been exfiltrated from its systems in the attack. In an April 25, 2024, announcement, Livanova said the investigation is ongoing however it has been determined that information such as names, contact information, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, health insurance information, and medical information such as diagnoses, conditions, treatment information, prescription information, medical record number, device serial numbers, and physician names were involved.

The affected individuals have been advised to monitor their credit reports and account statements and to be alert to unsolicited communications involving personal information. Livnova has arranged for complimentary identity protection and credit monitoring services to be provided to the affected U.S. patients. It is currently unclear how many individuals have been affected. In a February 2024 earnings call, the company confirmed that the company had incurred costs of around $2.6 million in Q4, 2023, as a result of the attack.

Aspire Health Alliance, Massachusetts

Aspire Health Alliance, a state-designated community behavioral health center with facilities in Quincy, Braintree, and Marshfield in Massachusetts, has notified 17,490 individuals about a cyberattack that was detected on September 13, 2023. Suspicious activity was identified within its computer network and a third-party forensic investigation confirmed that its systems had been accessed by an unauthorized third party that acquired certain files and data stored on its network.

A comprehensive review was conducted to determine the types of data involved, and that process was completed on February 26, 2024, when it was confirmed that personal and protected health information was involved. The types of data varied from individual to individual and may have included names, other personal identifiers, and Social Security numbers. While data was exposed or acquired, no reports have been received to indicate any patient data has been misused. Complimentary credit monitoring and identity protection services have been offered to individuals whose Social Security numbers were impacted, and additional security measures have been implemented to reduce the risk of a similar incident occurring in the future.

Santa Rosa Behavioral Healthcare Hospital, California

Santa Rosa Behavioral Healthcare Hospital, part of the Northern California Behavioral Health System (NCBHS), has fallen victim to a cyberattack that disrupted some of its IT systems. The attack was detected on January 28, 2024, and a third-party forensic investigation confirmed that an unauthorized third party accessed its network between January 27, 2024, and January 28, 2024. During that time, files containing patient data were accessed or acquired.

The file review confirmed that the following types of information had been exposed or stolen: names, dates of birth, medical record numbers, services received, dates of services, treating physician, and for some patients, Social Security numbers and/or driver’s license numbers. Affected patients have been advised to monitor the statements they receive from their healthcare providers and health insurers and report any services they haven’t received. Individuals whose Social Security or driver’s license numbers were involved have been offered complimentary identity theft protection services. The incident has been reported to regulators but is not yet shown on the Office for Civil Rights breach portal, so it is currently unclear how many individuals have been affected.

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Email Breach at Wisconsin Dental Surgery Center Affects 13,000 Patients

Bay Oral Surgery & Implant Center (Bay Oral), a network of oral & maxillofacial dental surgery centers serving the Green Bay, Marinette, and Niagara communities in Wisconsin, has recently reported a data breach to the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) that involved the protected health information of 13,055 patients.

On February 27, 2024, Bay Oral identified suspicious activity in an employee’s email account. The password for the account was immediately changed to prevent further unauthorized access and a third-party cybersecurity firm was engaged to investigate the incident. The forensic investigation confirmed that an unauthorized individual had installed software and gained access to an employee’s email account on January 18, 2024.

The review of the emails and attachments confirmed that patients’ protected health information had been exposed. The types of information involved included names, addresses, email addresses, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, insurance card numbers, credit card numbers, banking account information, x-rays, patient health history forms, patient visit summaries, medical history questionnaires, and other types of patient health information that had been shared via email. The investigation could not determine if the unauthorized individual viewed or copied emails or attachments in the account.

In addition to immediately securing the email account, Bay Oral has taken several other steps to prevent similar incidents in the future. They include changing IT companies, implementing a 24/7 protection and monitoring solution, and implementing new policies and procedures to ensure that patients’ protected health information is not stored in email accounts.

Bay Oral said it is unaware of any reports of fraud or identity theft at the time of issuing notifications. The affected patients have been advised to be vigilant for incidents of fraud and identity theft by regularly reviewing their credit reports, credit statements, bank accounts, and other financial accounts for unauthorized activity.

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Health Data Analytics Firm Reports 1.1-Million Record MSP Data Breach

A Portland, ME-based accounting and consulting firm has recently reported a data breach to the Maine Attorney General that involved the personal information of 1,107,354 individuals. Berry, Dunn, McNeil & Parker, LLC (BerryDunn) provides health data analytics services to healthcare providers, health insurers, and government regulatory and healthcare policy agencies and its clients provide BerryDunn with personal and health data to allow the firm to perform its contracted services.

BerryDunn’s Health Analytics Practice Group (HAPG) contracted with a managed service provider (MSP) called Reliable Networks of Maine, LLC (RMN), which manages systems on behalf of HAPG. On September 14, 2023, RMN notified HAPG that it had identified suspicious activity on its network, including in the systems it manages for HAPG. BerryDunn immediately initiated its incident response protocols and brought in third-party cybersecurity experts to investigate to determine the extent to which client data was involved.

The investigation confirmed that a threat actor gained access to the RMN network and used the vendor’s privileged access to steal data from the HAPG systems the MSP managed. A vendor was engaged to conduct a review of the affected files, and that process was completed on April 2, 2024. The information exposed or stolen in the incident included names, addresses, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, health insurance policy numbers, Medicare or Medicaid numbers, state or governmental ID numbers, passport numbers, and medical information. Notification letters were mailed to the affected individuals on April 25, 2024, and complimentary credit monitoring and identity theft protection services have been offered to the affected individuals. Those services include a $1 million identity theft reimbursement policy.

It is unclear how many of BerryDunn clients have been affected. BerryDunn has confirmed that it has decommissioned all systems under the control of RMN, migrated all HAPG data to secure internal BerryDunn servers, and said those servers are continuously monitored for unauthorized access under its cybersecurity program.

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Bipartisan Coalition of Attorneys General Call for UHG to Take Decisive Action to Help Providers and Patients

A bipartisan coalition of 22 state attorneys general sent a letter to UnitedHealth Group CEO Andrew Witty to express their concern about the response to the February 21, 2024, ransomware attack on Change Healthcare and the continuing problems faced by providers, pharmacies, and patients.

Providers and pharmacies in their various jurisdictions have reported catastrophic disruptions due to the extended outage and limited restoration of Change Healthcare’s services, and wholly inadequate responses from Change Healthcare and its payor partners. Many providers and pharmacies have said they are in jeopardy of collapse, with patients experiencing disruption to care due to delays in receiving vital prescription medications. In some cases, patients have been denied access to medications due to providers’ inability to conduct eligibility checks.

In the weeks following the attack, the Attorneys General have received increasingly dire messages from healthcare facilities, care providers, and patients due to the prolonged disruption to Change Healthcare’s services. The outage has caused problems with prescription drug access, there are catastrophic billing and payment backlogs, and other problems stemming from the continued lack of access to Change Healthcare’s services.

“Facilities that use Change Healthcare as their backbone to track services and claims have been unable to timely complete prior authorizations, confirm benefits, document and submit claims, and in some instances have even lost access to basic care IT infrastructure,” wrote the Attorneys General. “You must do more than you are currently to avoid imposing further harm to our states’ health care infrastructure and the patients who rely upon it.”

In addition to the lack of access to Change Healthcare’s systems, it has now been confirmed that there was a considerable data breach. UnitedHealth Group issued a statement confirming that personally identifiable and protected health information was compromised and that the data breach could affect “a substantial proportion of the U.S. population.” Further, “Given the ongoing nature and complexity of the data review, it is likely to take several months of continued analysis before enough information will be available to identify and notify impacted customers and individuals.”

The Attorneys General have been contacted by care providers and non-HG facilities who said they are unable to reach Change Healthcare staff who can provide timely information about the data that has been breached, how they can get financial support that does not impose unreasonable conditions such as waiver of liability, and how they can document and submit claims during the outage. While financial assistance has been provided, for many providers that have experienced financial difficulties due to the attack, the support offered has been “paltry”. Some independent providers have been quoted relief of as little as $10 per week.

In the letter, the Attorneys General outlined some of the specific actions that they believe need to be taken to help alleviate the harm caused by the outage. Those measures include the enhancement and expansion of financial assistance to all affected providers, ensuring providers and practices owned by UHG or its subsidiaries are not being offered more advantageous financial assistance than others, providing a dedicated helpline to allow providers to resolve unanswered questions, ensuring that the claims backlog is expeditiously resolved, to issuing timely notifications to the practices and patients whose data has been compromised. The Attorneys General also asked to be provided with an independent analysis confirming that UHG’s and Change Healthcare’s systems have been secured and the vulnerabilities that contributed to the cyberattack have been addressed.

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Phishers Gain Access to 23 L.A. County Department of Health Services Email Accounts

Los Angeles County Department of Health Services’ employees were targeted in a recent phishing campaign, and almost 2,800 Catholic Medical Center patients have been affected by a data breach at one of its vendors.

Los Angeles County Department of Health Services Phishing Attack

The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services was recently targeted in a phishing campaign that saw 23 employees tricked into disclosing their email account credentials after clicking a hyperlink in an email that appeared to have been sent by a trusted sender. The email accounts were accessed by an unauthorized third party between February 19, 2024, and February 20, 2024.

The Department of Health Services said the attack was reported to law enforcement which recommended delaying notifying the affected individuals so as not to interfere with the investigation. Notification letters have now been mailed to the affected individuals who have been provided with information on the steps they can take in response to the breach. The types of data exposed varied from individual to individual and may have included one or more of the following: first and last name, date of birth, home address, phone number(s), e-mail address, medical record number, client identification number, dates of service, and/or medical information (e.g., diagnosis/condition, treatment, test results, medications), and/or health plan information.

The Department of Health Services has sent awareness notifications to all members of the workforce reminding them to be vigilant when opening emails, has enhanced its training regarding identifying and responding to phishing emails, and has implemented further controls to minimize the risk of further successful attacks.

The breach has been reported to the HHS Office for Civil Rights but is not yet showing on the OCR breach portal, so it is currently unclear how many individuals have been affected.

Catholic Medical Center Patients Affected by Email Breach at Business Associate

Almost 2,800 patients of Catholic Medical Center (CMC) in New Hampshire have been affected by a data breach at one of its vendors, the accounts receivable management service provider Lamont Hanley & Associates. Lamont Hanley & Associates notified CMC on March 6, 2024, that there had been unauthorized access to an employee’s email account. The breach was detected on June 20, 2023, and it was determined that patient data may have been accessed or acquired by the unauthorized third party, although no specific evidence of data access or data theft was identified.

The account contained the protected health information of 2,792 CMC patients, including names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, medical and claim information, health insurance information, individual identification information, and financial account information. Lamont Hanley & Associates is offering complimentary credit monitoring services to eligible individuals and has taken steps to improve security to prevent similar breaches in the future.

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