When you only look at part of the elephant: Data breach winners and losers by state

Erin McCann has an article on data breaches in the healthcare sector:

So who are the biggest offenders by state?

Generally, states with the highest population have the highest number of data breaches. For instance, California and Texas top the list, banking the highest number of data breaches in the nation. However, when population is taken into consideration, the numbers change substantially.

Using data from the HHS, here are the best and the worst states in terms of number of records breach per 1,000 people.

You can see her listing of “Blacklisted: Top 5 states with the highest number of data breaches” on Healthcare IT News, but I would say that the list is significantly flawed.

Using HHS’s breach tool as a basis may seem like a reasonable way to determine “worst states” when population differences are taken into account, but it’s not the best way, in my opinion.

Indeed, if you had simply asked me what state I think is the worst for breaches involving healthcare sector data, I’d have mentioned a state that’s not on her list – Florida.

Why Florida, you ask? Because they have had a number of breaches involving insider theft or copying of data for misuse or fraud. Those breaches are worse than many other breaches that may have higher numbers but did not result in any harm. Also, Florida has had a number of cases of Medicare fraud prosecutions that involve patients’ Medicare numbers. Those incidents do not generally show up in HHS’s breach tool at all. Texas has also had a number of Medicare fraud prosecutions and has had some insider theft cases, but not as many reports of hospital employees stealing and misusing patient data. At least, that’s my impression as someone who has been tracking and reporting on breaches. Some mainstream media journalist might wish to attempt to verify or disconfirm my impressions.

But the bottom line is this: when we talk about “worst” states in terms of breaches, yes, the number of breaches per capita should be considered, but shouldn’t we take harm into account? I think we should.

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