Fatal Heart Attacks Increase at Hospitals After Data Breaches, Research Shows

Hospitals register a higher death rate for heart attack patients for up to three years after suffering a data breach in online attacks, according to a US study published in the latest issue of Health Services Research.

While some might leap to the conclusion that Internet of Things devices or other medical equipment were altered in the attacks, the study reaches another conclusion:  security measures put in place after a successful breach increased the time between admission and a patient’s electrocardiogram, which spurred an uptick in mortality.

The researchers chose to look at myocardial infarction because it’s common and extremely time-sensitive. They relied on a public database on hospital data breaches maintained by the US Department of Health and Human Services’ and Medicare Compare’s public data on hospital quality measures for 2012‐2016.

“Hospital time‐to‐electrocardiogram increased as much as 2.7 minutes, and 30‐day acute myocardial infarction mortality increased as much as 0.36 percentage points during the 3‐year window following a breach,” states the study.

“Breach remediation efforts were associated with deterioration in the timeliness of care and patient outcomes. Thus, breached hospitals and HHS oversight should carefully evaluate remedial security initiatives to achieve better data security without negatively affecting patient outcomes,” the study concludes.

The results show that data breaches result in more than just stolen records or expenses. People’s lives are affected as well in a very real and tangible way.

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