33,000 patients' health info leaked
The Friday Pulse Check
Good Friday morning to all of you and welcome to the Friday Pulse Check. Michigan Medicine announced a few of its employees fell for a phishing scam resulting in a significant breach of their data. Read on to the Final Thought to learn more.
In the news:
Private ambulance company halting non-emergency trips
American Medical Response, the largest US provider of ambulance services, announced it would no longer be conducting non-emergency transports in Los Angeles County, California because the Medi-Cal reimbursement rate in that county is too low. Medi-Cal is California’s Medicaid program. Earlier this year, the company asked the state to up the Medi-Cal reimbursement rate from $110 per ride to $350 per ride; the state said no. The decision could put some hospitals in a predicament, especially those that contract American Medical Response, as ambulances are often used as transport between facilities. The pullout equates to a loss of 28,000 non-emergency trips per year. Read more in Kaiser Health News.
SC woman accused of posing as RN
A woman in South Carolina was arrested this week for allegedly posing as an RN at seven different South Carolina nursing and assisted living facilities. SC Attorney General Alan Wilson said that Alyssa Beth Steele used a State of Georgia Board of Nursing number that belonged to someone else to gain employment. She is facing several charges including neglect of a vulnerable adult, unlicensed practice as a registered nurse, financial identity fraud to obtain employment, and obtaining signature of property under false pretenses.
Just over a week away from the mid-terms, where is Big Pharma money going?
We are just over a week from the mid-terms. If you own a tv or radio, I’m sure you have seen or heard political ads accusing one candidate or another for taking money from Big Pharma. Fortunately, all of that information is public record and easy to check. If you want to know how much money Big Pharma corporations have given to current congressional members, check out Kaiser Health News’ Pharma Cash to Congress. Also, don’t forget to go vote on November 8.
Rising premiums: who is to blame?
This week on the FLATLINING Podcast, Ron and I discussed a recent survey from the Willis Towers Watson organization which attempted to identify rising health costs. The problem with the survey is that it only spoke to health insurers, not provider groups or facilities.
The companies surveyed pointed to over utilization, bad habits of patients, and profit motivations by physicians as the primary drivers of healthcare costs. As I pointed out on the show, this drew the ire of former insiders like Wendell Potter, who wished the insurance companies who answered the survey would have an “aha moment.”
Now, as Ron said on the show, it is true that there is over utilization in some instances, but it isn’t necessarily provider-driven. Sometimes to convince the anxious mother who is so sure it is a brain tumor, you just have to do the MRI.
We also discussed new Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services rules regarding immediate jeopardy warnings for poor-performing nursing homes. Under the new rules, facilities that receive two immediate jeopardy warnings could lose their Medicare and Medicaid contracts. The intentions of the rule change might be good, but like all things there are unintended consequences.
Finally, the CDC recommended last week that COVID-19 vaccines be added to the regular vaccine schedule for children. Immediately, it was taken as a political message (of course, why not?) and some states said they would definitely not be adding it. Interestingly to me, Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer said in a debate on Tuesday night she wouldn’t be requiring it for Michigan public schools. It could be a sign of self-awareness that she cannot win when she talks about COVID-19.
The World Health Organization published an assessment this week of the health situation in Ukraine eight months into the war. They concluded that the healthcare system in that country continues to function overall, but costs, logistic hurdles, and damaged infrastructure is making the delivery of care difficult. They also found that certain medications, including medications for high blood pressure and heart conditions, were unobtainable by many persons. Read more from the World Health Organization.
Michigan Medicine announced this week that the health information of more than 33,000 patients may have been compromised back in August. According to the hospital chain, employees were targeted during a phishing scam. Four employees clicked on a fake link from an email and entered their Michigan Medicine employee login information, giving access to patient accounts.
The hospital was quick to announce that no banking information was leaked and only one Social Security Number was involved. They did admit, however, that emails were obtained that included names, addresses, date of birth, medical record numbers, and treatment and diagnostic information.
I emphasized the last one because, in our industry, that is the most serious. Personal health information is extremely sensitive and should be kept secure. Its sensitivity is why we have HIPPA laws.
Michigan Medicine says the employees are facing disciplinary action, as is system policies and procedures and also said they had been previously trained to identify scam emails.
I have a friend who works for the corporate office of a large retail company, and he has told me the company sends fake phishing emails as part of their due diligence to make sure their employees are staying vigilant. Afterwards, they send a report to the staff to let them know how the company did. He told me they have never had an instance where no one clicked the link.
Be mindful of what pops up in your email. Don’t be that guy that always clicks the link.
Have a good weekend,