Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Health

Community Health System data breach hits millions, possibly including Bayfront clinic patients

The parent company of Bayfront Health St. Petersburg says criminal cyberattackers stole Social Security numbers and other information of about 4.5 million patients treated by its affiliated physician groups.

Tennessee-based Community Health Systems — which also owns Bayfront Health Spring Hill, Bayfront Health Brooksville and Bayfront Health Dade City — said Monday that no medical or credit card records were taken in the attack, which may have happened in April and June. But Community said the attack did bypass its security systems to take patient names, addresses, birth dates, and telephone and Social Security numbers.

The data breach affects patients who were treated at the company's clinics, not those who were solely hospital patients, said Susan Frimmel, spokeswoman for Bayfront Spring Hill. The clinics all use the same software that was hacked, she said.

Community has not yet released a list of affected clinics. In the Tampa Bay area, the company's affiliated clinics include Bayfront Health Medical Group locations and such offices as My Gynecologist in Spring Hill and Women's Health of Pasco in Dade City.

"We take very seriously the security and confidentiality of private patient information and we sincerely regret any concern or inconvenience this event may cause for our patients," the company said in a statement. "Though we have no reason to believe that this data would ever be used, all affected patients are being notified by letter and offered free identity theft protection."

Bayfront St. Petersburg's spokeswoman, Elena Mesa, said only that she had no information on the local impact. She declined to make Bayfront Health CEO Kathryn Gillette available for an interview.

The data breach is the latest hurdle for Bayfront St. Petersburg. After a century as a not-for-profit institution, Bayfront was taken over in 2013 by the Naples for-profit hospital chain Health Management Associates.

Even before that buyout was complete, HMA was already facing allegations — aired on CBS's 60 Minutes — that doctors were pressured to make admission quotas to fill the chain's hospital beds. Allegations snowballed with an expanding federal whistle-blower investigation and other claims of kickbacks at the company.

Then last year Community Health swooped in and bought HMA facilities, including Bayfront, Pasco Regional Medical Center, Brooksville Regional Hospital and Spring Hill Regional Hospital, in a $7.6 million deal. They have all been rebranded with the Bayfront name.

The company is in the process of setting up a toll-free hotline for patients concerned about their data.

After the news broke Monday, Frimmel said her phone in Spring Hill had been ringing off the hook from patients nervous that their information had been stolen.

"I've got message after message," she said.

Community Health, which owns, leases or operates 206 hospitals in 29 states, said it believes the attack came from a group in China that used sophisticated malware and technology to get the information. Community has since removed the malware from its system and finalized "other remediation efforts" to prevent future attacks.

The attack follows other high-profile data security problems that have hit retailers like the e-commerce site eBay and Target Corp. Last year, hackers stole from Target about 40 million debit and credit card numbers and personal information for 70 million people.

Shares of Community Health climbed 38 cents to $51.38 late Monday morning, while broader trading indexes also rose less than 1 percent.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report. Contact Jodie Tillman at [email protected] or (813) 226-3374. Follow @JTillmanTimes.

Comments
Preventive treatment for peanut allergies succeeds in study

Preventive treatment for peanut allergies succeeds in study

The first treatment to help prevent serious allergic reactions to peanuts may be on the way. A company said Tuesday that its daily capsules of peanut flour helped sensitize children to nuts in a major study. Millions of children have peanut allergies...
Published: 02/20/18
Doctors were wrong when they told her immunotherapy wouldn’t cure her cancer

Doctors were wrong when they told her immunotherapy wouldn’t cure her cancer

No one expected the four young women to live much longer. They had an extremely rare, aggressive and fatal form of ovarian cancer. There was no standard treatment.The women, strangers to one another living in different countries, asked their doctors ...
Published: 02/20/18

Hernando Bloodmobile for Feb. 23

Bloodmobile locationsLifeSouth Community Blood Center will have blood drives at the following off-site locations during the coming week:Feb. 23: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Walmart, 13300 Cortez Blvd., Spring Hill; 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Dickey’s Barbecue P...
Published: 02/20/18
Be prepared to help save a life: Learn CPR

Be prepared to help save a life: Learn CPR

70 percent of cardiac arrests outside hospitals happen at home. American Heart Association 3 a.m. Jan. 4, 2016. Lisa Peters of St. Petersburg is awakened by her husband, Rick, making strange gasping sounds. She can’t wake him. He feels cold. Only 46...
Published: 02/16/18

Step by step, ramp up your daily activity

Jae Bermanhe Washington Post There are many reasons that people avoid exercise. Time is an obvious one. Our lives are already busy — who has time to work out? Money is another common excuse. Gym memberships and equipment can get pricey.People often w...
Published: 02/16/18
Put Alaskan king crab leg shells to work in a creamy, dreamy bisque

Put Alaskan king crab leg shells to work in a creamy, dreamy bisque

Nothing says indulgence like noshing on some seriously giant Alaskan king crab legs. They’re not just tasty, they’re a low-fat source of protein: One leg has about 25 grams of protein and a host of vitamins and minerals (including sodium, incidentall...
Published: 02/15/18
Avocado toast gets a persimmon twist

Avocado toast gets a persimmon twist

You’ve likely seen persimmon in the grocery store and then shied away from it, not quite sure what to do with it. The most common variety in the United States is the fuyu persimmon, also called Japanese persimmon, and it looks similar to a slightly f...
Published: 02/15/18
News co-anchor Dan Harris delves into meditation, and why being distracted is ‘a victory’

News co-anchor Dan Harris delves into meditation, and why being distracted is ‘a victory’

Emma Seppalahe Washington PostDan Harris is co-anchor of ABC’s Nightline and the weekend editions of Good Morning America. His first book, 10% Happier, was a No. 1 New York Times bestseller. He later launched the 10% Happier podcast and an app called...
Published: 02/15/18

Mayo Clinic Q&A: exercise stress tests; breast self-awareness versus self-exams

DON’T SWEAT THE EXERCISE STRESS TESTI have a treadmill stress test scheduled to look for heart disease. I know this involves exercising, and I’m worried that I’m not physically up to it. Is there another way to gather this information?Yes. There’s an...
Published: 02/15/18
Gay doctor takes a drug to prevent HIV. Then he couldn’t get disability insurance

Gay doctor takes a drug to prevent HIV. Then he couldn’t get disability insurance

Three years ago, Dr. Philip J. Cheng, a urology resident at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, nicked himself while preparing an HIV-positive patient for surgery.Following hospital protocol, he took a one-month course of Truvada, a cocktail of t...
Published: 02/15/18