Investigation Reveals Nearly 1200 Health Data Breaches Since 2009

By John Henry Dreyfuss, staff.

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  • Health data breaches can now be considered common in the U.S. with about 22 occurring every day since 2009.
  • Nearly 1200 “large-scale” breaches have been reported to the Federal government since 2009.
  • Approximately 120,000 “small-scale” breaches have been reported in the same period.
  • The medical data of more than 120 million American patients have been exposed.

According to an investigation federal data by, U.S. healthcare organizations and their business partners have reported 1,199 large-scale data breaches since October 2009. (See Figure.)

That comes out to more than 260 breaches per month during that period or about 22 per day.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights.

Click here to see the federal database for yourself. Click here to use the handy ProPublica app to explore the database.

Each of the breaches considered to be large scale affected 500 people or more, according to the database of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights. Of those nearly 1200 breaches, seven have resulted in fines. During the same period about 120,000 breaches were reported that were considered to be small scale (affecting fewer than 500 people).

Macro View

That is the micro view. On the macro scale, the recent Anthem breach exposed personal data of more than 80 million people. In other breaches combined, the data of more than 40 million people have been exposed. When I search the database for my own insurer I see that they experienced a major breach just 10 days ago with the loss of films and paper records affecting 527 patients.

Every one of those people must now take defensive actions such as:

  • Purchasing a credit monitoring service.
  • Changing all passwords.
  • Regularly monitoring their own medical data for irregularities.

With Each Breach, the Danger to Corporations and Individuals Grows

At this rate, something bad is nearly certain to come of some of the stolen data. It is imperative that IT innovators find ways to secure these data. Otherwise, we’ll go back to faxes and bicycle messengers.

You can use this app to filter the events discovered in the ProPublica investigation. Has your insurer lost data? Take a look.

Based on a report by and a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights.

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