UPDATED: August 20, 2022

Healthcare data breaches aren’t isolated incidents. Statistics show that 45% of U.S. companies have experienced a data breach before, making cyberattacks a widespread issue.

Sadly, you have no control over how third-party entities protect your information. In all likelihood, you’ll only get a warning after the institution involved confirms the cyberattack.

With that said, you can still protect yourself. Following an effective recovery plan will significantly minimize the damages if you find yourself on the receiving end of a healthcare data breach.

Don’t worry if you have no cybersecurity experience—we’ve got you.

A healthcare data breach can happen to anyone, even us. So we asked our team to gather the most crucial data privacy and protection tips from ID theft security experts, cybersecurity sites, and official government resources.

Please read without skipping. We’ll explain why healthcare data breach victims should never forego the help of a data privacy lawyer. Exercise your rights to data privacy, or else you could end up unjustly paying millions of dollars worth of fees and damages out of pocket.

Let’s dive into our comprehensive guide on healthcare data breaches!

Protecting yourself after a healthcare data breach

You should never ignore data breach alerts. Immediately file the necessary paperwork and do your best to trace which pieces of information were compromised.

Remember: healthcare providers carry super-confidential personal data. Once crooks extract info like your SSN, they can already apply for new credit cards, take out loans, or even claim tax benefits.

So if you’re the possible victim of a data breach, make sure you:

1. Assess the situation

Before anything else, assess the situation. You’ll create a more streamlined, effective recovery plan if you know:

  • When the data breach happened. Your healthcare service provider or insurer should inform you of potential data breaches as soon as possible.
  • Which institution was involved. You should know what documents you’ve submitted to this institution. After all, not all insurers ask for the same information.
  • What personal information was stolen. Your personal information and data have different levels of importance. For instance, a breach involving your SSN is more alarming than one with just your first name and hometown. 
  • Who you can talk to for follow-ups. Unfortunately, resolving data breach cases could take anywhere from weeks to months; you should have a designated point of contact so that you won’t have to wait in the long queue of their hotlines.

The initial assessment shouldn’t take more than a day or two. 

2. File an FTC identity theft report

Once you have a handle on the situation, file a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It helps consumers combat identity theft and fraud. 

First, go to its Identity Theft reporting platform and hit the Get Started button on the homepage. The site will show you a short series of questions.

Answer all of them truthfully, explicitly explain the situation, and provide whatever helpful evidence you have. The questionnaire shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to answer.

Afterward, the FTC will provide you with a detailed recovery indicating everything you need to do moving forward. Remember the contact information listed so that you’ll have someone to guide you.

3. Place a fraud alert on your credit report

Whether or not your credit card information was compromised, we encourage placing a fraud alert on your credit reports. That way, crooks can’t easily misuse your finances.

Once you place a credit fraud alert, banks and lenders must examine your information more extensively. Simply put, they have to double-check your identity before accepting transactions.

Also, credit bureaus will send you a free copy of your credit report twice annually. Monitor your statements closely and contest any unusual activity immediately.

Just contact any of the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, to set up fraud alerts.

4. Freeze your credit report

Fraud alerts require financial institutions to double-check credit applications under your name, but they won’t stop transactions altogether. Crooks who have much of your data might fall through the cracks.

If you want to bar all transactions and applications under your name, consider freezing your credit. With a credit freeze, credit bureaus won’t release your credit reports under any circumstances.

Just note that you also won’t be able to access your credit. Banks will automatically decline all credit card transactions and loan applications, even if they come from you.

5. Consider filing a lawsuit

Many institutions facing cyberattacks discourage their clients from filing lawsuits. They might even trick them into signing additional contracts and agreements to avoid liability.

Please remember that as the victim, you have the right to sue your healthcare service provider or insurer if they compromise your personal information, whether intentionally or not. The law mandates the security of all confidential client, customer, and employee PII.

Also, don’t let the idea of going to court scare you from filing a lawsuit. If you and the other data breach victims can prove data privacy negligence, you’ll likely get a favorable settlement.

The main causes of healthcare data breaches

Research shows that the most common causes of data breaches in the health sector include:

  • Human Error: Humans are the weakest link in security. Criminals exploit their errors through fraud messages, phishing links, and spyware downloads.
  • Insider Information: Institutions should carefully screen their employees. Remove anyone that might seem suspicious, especially if they have access to super-confidential company information.
  • Brute-Force Hacking: Criminals can bypass weak cybersecurity systems through brute-force hacking methods. They involve “guessing” possible passcodes and combinations.

As a client, you can help protect your data by securing your healthcare information. If you must fill out online application forms, examine if the link comes from a secure source.

The effects of a healthcare data breach on victims

What happens to the victims of healthcare institutions and hospital cyberattacks? Based on our research they:

  • Spend months with a credit freeze or fraud alert. Although fraud alerts and credit freezes keep financial identity thieves at bay, they also cripple your finances. You might not even be able to pay with your credit card.
  • Frequently monitor transactions. Victims typically spend hours scouring their credit statements and transactions for unusual activities. The task eventually gets daunting.
  • Constantly fear identity theft attacks. The constant fear of criminals stealing your identity to take out loans and commit crimes will take a toll on your mental health.
  • Can’t use their healthcare information properly anymore. Unfortunately, you might not have access to your full healthcare benefits until the institution resolves the breach.

Between monitoring your credit score and contesting fraud transactions, victims could easily lose thousands of dollars on paperwork alone.

Also, crooks can keep abusing the same information for years. We’ve read healthcare data breach horror stories wherein victims still couldn’t apply for a decent loan half a decade after the attack.

Please know that you’re not responsible for these consequences. Instead of taking them on alone, we encourage you to file a lawsuit against the healthcare service provider or insurer who compromised your information.

Beware: They’ll go to great lengths to avoid liability. If you want to steer your case in a favorable direction, you’ll need the expertise of a knowledgeable, skilled data privacy lawyer.

Look for someone who will help you exercise your rights. Statistics show that 53% of healthcare data breaches stem from human error and negligence, so you definitely have a shot in court.

Laws protecting healthcare data breach victims

As a client, you have minimal control over how your healthcare service provider handles its client’s personal data. You won’t even know what cybersecurity protocols it follows.

And since healthcare and insurance providers are legally allowed to collect confidential personal information, you can’t withhold your SSN. Otherwise, they might not approve your policy application.

However, victims aren’t totally defenseless. Insurers can only collect personal information under the condition that they protect it.

Negligence in cybersecurity is a federal crime. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) prohibits the unauthorized disclosure or distribution of client information. 

So, if your information was compromised in a data breach, remember that you have every right to sue your insurance provider. Your attorney should walk you through the process.

Most infamous healthcare data breaches

Some recent healthcare data breaches involved the following institutions:

  • Anthem Blue Cross: It was involved in one of the largest healthcare cyber attacks in the U.S. Reports confirmed that the institution lost the personal records of more than 79 million patients in 2015.
  • Excellus BlueCross BlueShield: Following the attack on Anthem Blue Cross in 2015, cybercriminals also targeted this institution. More than 10 million patients were affected by the attack.
  • Baptist Medical Center: Its data breach was fairly recent. The attack affected 1.2 million clients, and officials claim that the emails got exposed through vendor email attacks.

We encourage reading the news regularly so that you’re updated on any cyberattacks against the financial, healthcare, and medical institutions you support.

Minimizing the damages following a healthcare data breach

Not everyone will experience a data breach. However, considering the frequency of cyberattacks, you’d do well to equip yourself with an effective, streamlined data recovery plan.

Trust us—you won’t want to get caught off guard. Being the victim of a data breach is scary, and not knowing what to do next will only put you in a worse position.

At least familiarize yourself with the strategies we mentioned above. That way, if your healthcare service provider or insurer suffers a cyberattack, you won’t waste time worrying about where to go.

Also, avoid carelessly divulging personal information. The more you share confidential PII with different institutions, the greater your risk of getting involved with a data breach.