Data Breaches in Healthcare: What You Need to Know to Protect Yourself

Healthcare information breaches are soaring, affecting hundreds of organizations and millions of patients every year. Ramifications can be wide-ranging and potentially detrimental to your business and patient relationships. With cybersecurity becoming vastly important, how do YOU maintain the integrity of your patient data?

According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the past several years marked an impressive 239% increase in larger data breach cases due to hacking and a 278% increase in ransomware attacks — a trend that sadly continued into 2023.¹

However, healthcare information breaches are not mere numbers as huge amounts of patient data can be exposed as the result of one event. Larger breaches that were reported to the OCR in 2023 impacted more than 88 million people, which in itself was a 60% increase from the year before.¹ 

While organizations remain wary of cybersecurity attacks, we can implement an array of reliable security protocols and draw lessons from experiences shared about healthcare information breaches so that vulnerable patient data remains protected.

What Can Lead to a Data Breach in Healthcare?

Similar to other industries, data breaches in healthcare continue to be of significant concern. But in this digital age, industries are becoming increasingly dependent on electronic platforms, moving records and customer data for storage and use to faster digital alternatives.

While hospitals, clinics, and private physicians’ offices can reap significant benefits from transitioning away from outdated and inconvenient record-keeping methods, enforcing tight security protocols to ensure your patients’ data remains protected, is an imperative first step.

Hackers, phishing attempts, unreliable personnel, and careless work practices can all lead to your patients’ data being impacted by unauthorized access — potentially exposing vulnerable information. 

Unauthorized password sharing within your organization or too much access provided too freely to some or all members of your office can lead to mostly avoidable issues.

Furthermore, malware and ransomware are increasingly responsible for healthcare data breaches and can shut down your organization for weeks or even months at a time. 

Other vulnerabilities can arise from within software applications, depending on design and configuration — allowing hackers to find a digital door they can walk through and right into your internal system.

It’s thus critical to establish reliable standard operating procedures (SOP) and oversee the enforcement of the SOPs at all organizational and operational levels. 

What Does a Healthcare Information Breach Mean for Your Business?

While all data breaches are unfortunate and have the potential to significantly impact your business moving forward, healthcare information breaches are particularly tricky. This is because providers will not only collect their patients’ demographics and financial or insurance information but will have stored private health data alongside all other data.

Medical records, as well as other identifiable patient data, are considered Protected Health Information under HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). Providers are, therefore, tasked to ensure that all collected clinical and personal data remain confidential.

With digital means of communication and record-keeping gaining traction, physicians have the moral obligation to enforce security protocols that will preserve patient data from unauthorized access and exploitation.

But what happens if you fall victim to a healthcare breach, with a third party managing to gain access to thousands of patient files? What would that mean for your business?

A healthcare information breach means that some or all patient data collected by your organization has been compromised. Besides investigations into the root cause of the breach and possible legal actions, your business relationships can take a nose-dive. Your partners will quickly question your level of trust and responsibility.

With patient data accessed or potentially stolen, vulnerable clinical data and payment information are at risk of being sold to other entities and used illegally.

As a provider, know that patients entrust you with their medical records and will be quick to demand accountability and action to be taken.

Data breaches can further stall your business, as your IT team works diligently to restore or back up data. They will also check every electronic device at your office to ensure all malware has been removed. This is a tedious process that can potentially last months, making business operations more difficult to proceed.

Healthcare information breaches are a very delicate matter that requires proper handling as both your credibility as a business and your trustworthiness are at stake. Patients may even opt to transition to a different provider, which can impact operations and significantly decrease your revenue.

Recent Healthcare Information Breach: Change Healthcare Cyberattack

Healthcare breaches can have vast consequences and impact countless health records, insurance files, and personal patient data. A recent example of a wide-ranging healthcare information breach is that of Change Healthcare, which was acquired by UnitedHealth in late 2022.

According to Change Healthcare, their system supports a whopping 14 billion financial, clinical, and operational transactions every single year.² Ramifications of the Change Healthcare cyberattack have ranged so far that many providers have not been able to get paid and others have been unable to look up coverage for patients due to the breach.³

As one of the largest healthcare companies in the U.S., Change Healthcare operates on a nationwide level, touching 1 in every 3 patient records.³ Its far-reaching business relationships have affected countless hospitals and even more patients, impacting the patient care process and pharmacy operations.³

One of the biggest issues of the Change Healthcare ransomware attack is the dire crisis created for hospitals and clinics around the country, as more than 100 systems were forced to be disconnected.⁴ 

The outage then led to a sudden loss of access for providers to submit billing claims and process insurance and payment.⁵ As a result of the stalled payment process, many medical facilities have seen their revenue drop significantly since Feb. 21.

While the Change Healthcare Pharmacy Network was back online within a couple of weeks and pharmacy and payment systems were running again, the implications of this cyberattack continue to ripple across the healthcare industry.

The recent incident at Change Healthcare demonstrates the vulnerability of healthcare facilities and highlights the importance of adequate cybersecurity and tight security protocols. With ransomware attacks increasingly targeting the industry, sensitive data can easily be put at risk. 

Prioritizing Patient Data Security with the Right Partners

Data security is the cornerstone of a successful healthcare organization, keeping critical patient data protected and financial transactions safe and enabled. 

Keeping up with the times, however, means that transitioning to digital software applications is inevitable as well as necessary to compete in the marketplace — providing quality patient care and good customer service at the same time. 

Therefore, ensuring that you partner with trusted third parties that value cybersecurity as much as you do is imperative so you can prioritize safe transactions while also providing exceptional care.

Vivlio Health is a cloud-based platform that helps medical providers access clinical data from any medical facility regardless of the EMR they use. No more chasing after records from other offices, faxing, and making phone calls on a loop.

We strive for the highest standard of quality and take the security of our clients and patients’ data very seriously. Vivlio Health, therefore, has strict security protocols in place to continue providing the best possible services to you and your patients.


Want to learn more about how our platform works and what kind of security measures we have taken to protect you and your patients? Sign up for a free demo and we’ll reach out to you.




  1. “HHS’ Office for Civil Rights Settles Ransomware Cyber-Attack Investigation.”, 31 October 2023, Accessed 12 March 2024.

  2. “The Change Healthcare Platform.” Change Healthcare, Accessed 14 March 2024.

  3. “AHA Letter to HHS on Implications of Change Healthcare Cyberattack | AHA.” American Hospital Association, 26 February 2024, Accessed 14 March 2024.

  4. Hospitals and Pharmacies Reeling After Change Healthcare Cyberattack, 23 February 2024, Accessed 14 March 2024.

  5. Change Healthcare Rival Onboards Hundreds of Thousands of Customers During Hack Crisis, 12 March 2024, Accessed 14 March 2024.