5 Lessons Learned: Anthem Data Breach

cyber security

Over the last two weeks, we’ve seen one of the largest data breaches in our country’s history unfold. The second largest health insurer in the U.S., Anthem Inc., experienced a “very sophisticated cyber attack” on Jan. 29, which exposed the names, birthdays, medical IDs, Social Security numbers, street addresses, email addresses and employment information, including income data, of as many as 80 million customers.

While this was not the first breach of health data – millions have been affected by previous health data breaches – the Anthem breach is by far the biggest and it will not be the last.

In the wake of this significant breach, we have been observing Anthem’s communications response. Here are some key learnings:

  •  Act quickly and walk toward the crisis: As our own crisis guru Bob McNaney says, “Always walk toward the crisis, not away.” With a healthcare data breach affecting more than 500 people, organizations are required by federal law to disclose the hack or breach within 60 days. Upon discovering the breach on Jan. 29, Anthem immediately took action to secure the vulnerability and contacted the FBI. The company also hired Mandiant, a…
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Digital Marketing

The Return of Measles: Is the Internet to Blame?


Disclaimer: I believe in vaccinations, and my husband and I have chosen to vaccinate our two boys.

This post is not about whether vaccination is right or wrong. It’s about how the current anti-vaccination movement (post-1998) got its legs, and how the Internet may have contributed to it.

From smallpox in the 19th century to diptheria, tetanus and pertussis in the 1970’s to the current measles, mumps, and rubella controversy, opponents of vaccination (“anti-vaxxers”) have existed for as long as vaccines have existed. The current anti-vaccination movement arose in 1998 when Dr. Andrew Wakefield published the findings of a 12-person study to examine whether there was a connection between the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and autism. The Lancet, which originally published the study, later retracted, and Wakefield lost his license to practice medicine.

Historically, the anti-vaccination movement has been rooted in specific communities, such as the town of Leicester, England in the mid-1800’s. Today, while there are specific communities with low vaccination rates, we’ve seen much broader reach due, in large part to the Internet.

Flashback to 1998 when the Wakefield study was released.  Just 26.2 percent of American households had Internet access. Two years later, that number grew exponentially to…

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Oscar Winning Health

As I was sitting in the movie theater watching previews of the many Oscar-nominated flicks that came out this winter, I noticed a theme: health has again made its way into our movies.

Still AliceMovies like Cake, Still Alice and The Theory of Everything are offering glimpses into diseases and conditions which many of us have never seen. These powerful stories allow us to deeply understand things like chronic pain, Alzheimer’s and ALS from the patient’s perspective. And, these actors can’t help but get Oscar buzz when portraying such raw and honest emotion, often doing major research and even meeting patients in order to bring real authenticity to their performance.

In fact, a new series on cancer research set to release in March is deeply personal to those involved in the project. Ken Burns, the filmmaker, lost his mom to cancer. Sharon Rockefeller, the project’s initiator, is a colon cancer survivor. And, Edward Hermann, the narrator, died of brain cancer shortly after completing work on the film. I’m not sure you can get more personal or genuine.

Even more than a blog post or video that claims…

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The State of Health Care: 5 Health Care Takeaways from the 2015 State of the Union Address


Health care played a starring role in the 2014 State of the Union address, with nine full paragraphs of attention.  In 2015, while taking a backseat to issues like the economy, there were some key takeaways for health care professionals.  Here are five things from the 2015 State of the Union address that may impact the world of health care in 2015 and beyond:

1)    Precision Medicine Initiative - “I want the country that eliminated polio and mapped the human genome to deliver a new era of medicine, one that delivers the right treatment at the right time.”

What is precision medicine?  Likely to become a buzzword, it’s an already growing trend in medicine.  You may have heard it described as “individualized” or “personalized,” but the key is treating people based upon their genetic material to identify the most effective approach for that particular patient.

What can we expect from government in terms of supporting the growth of precision medicine?  New funding to subsidize new technology and the testing and approval of drugs.  In The Washington Post’s To Your Health blog, Lenny Bernstein suggests, “Government also might establish databases for all the information yielded by the millions upon millions…

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The Going Price for Privacy

We are all familiar with the idiomatic expression, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”  In a piece earlier this week from “The Washington Post,” genetic-testing company, 23andMe, Inc., announced it will share data from 650,000 customers in a partnership deal with Pfizer, a global pharmaceutical company.

In a healthcare system dominated by the acronym HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), a logical first question may be: “Is that legal?” The simple answer is yes.

In a book published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCIB), the intent of HIPAA was to make health care delivery more efficient and to increase the number of Americans with health insurance coverage. Yet, study after study, details how HIPAA has actually had a negative impact on medical research.  HIPAA has created a selection bias, reduced patient participation, delayed medical advancements and caused large administrative burdens for covered entities/organizations that are required to enforce HIPAA.

Consumers, anxious to find out if they are related to Genghis Kahn, have signed consent (knowingly or not) and that data will now be shared. Yet in medical clinics around the country, some mom who is…

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If Martin Luther King Had a Dream for Healthcare

MLKAs I reflected on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this week, I wondered what he would think about the U.S. health system in 2015. Being a healthcare communications professional, I imagined what Dr. King might say, and what advice he might offer, knowing that despite significant advances in civil rights, race remains a significant factor in determining access to care, quality of care, and health outcomes. Knowing that disparities are particularly acute in the south, where he was raised and where a third of the country lives. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Southerners are more likely than those in other regions to be uninsured, less likely to have access to needed health services, and more likely to experience chronic health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

And while I don’t want to simplify what is a complex issue impacted by a number of factors, how can we allow race to dictate health? And why does the vast majority of published research indicate that minorities are less likely than whites to receive needed services, including clinically necessary procedures, even after correcting for access-related factors, such as…

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5 Ways To Stay On Track With Your Healthy 2015 Resolution

Making-Resolutions1-300x195If you made a New Year’s resolution this year, chances are it has something to do with improving your health. According to a study in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, losing weight was the number one New Year’s resolution of 2014. It was closely followed by other healthy habits, like quitting smoking, and staying fit and healthy.

The study also reports that only 8% of Americans were successful in achieving their resolution. So, what are the other 92% of us doing wrong? Here are a few tips to help you stay on track this year:

1. Set SMART goals.

The key to staying on track with your healthy resolution is to set SMART goals. SMART goals hold you accountable because they are:

  • Specific: The more specific your goal is, the easier it will be to achie ve. Instead of saying I want to get in shape this year you should strive to work out at least three times a week.
  • Measurable: Decide how you want to measure your progress. How will you know when you’ve accomplished your goal?
  • Attainable: Ask yourself if this goal is reasonable for you. Is going to the gym every…
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Without a leg to stand on: Four observations about healthcare (that I learned the hard way)


I have worked with hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, outpatient services and medical professionals for more than 30 years. I thought I really KNEW the healthcare industry.

But, I learned more during the past seven months than in all the 30 years before.

In May, ruptured discs pinched nerves in my back and literally drained all strength from the quadriceps muscles in my left leg. Three days after surgery, while dutifully doing my walk therapy, I stumbled and immediately depended on my “good” right leg to steady me.  Evidently, one of the seven pre-MRI falls had damaged or stretched my right knee.  Instead of steadying me, the Patellar tendon in my right knee ripped apart in multiple places.  My knee cap was yanked into my thigh and a sunken hole replaced my previously dependable knee joint.  Ouch.

As I laid on the ground suffering, I knew my wife was (now) right.  I did not have a leg to stand on….

But, this became the first day of my real on-the-job healthcare training – as a patient.

Based upon my first seven months of first-hand experience, here are four key learnings and observations:

  • Good medical insurance is amazing. I admit, understanding the 47 different…
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    5 Healthcare Trends in 2015

    Tis the season for trend articles!  PadillaCRT looked at trend predictions for the past few years and looked ahead. We found two trends that deserve more momentum in 2015, two that are “coming soon to a health care organization near you” and one trend that we hope gets a little more air in 2015.


    The Good: we’re hoping 2015 is the year for these two trends.

    patient-engagement-team 21. Patient engagement. This has eluded healthcare organizations longer than the “National Treasure” eluded the Gates family.  (According to the movie trailer that was at least three generations.) When patients are effectively engaged, patient outcomes improve and cost drivers are positively affected.

    A mentor once told me, “Healthcare is personal and healthcare is local,” and she was right.  What is more personal than the health of you or a loved one? For patient engagement to be successful it needs to be led by patients and driven locally.  The Care Copilot Institute, a new effort from AllinaHealth and the Robina Foundation is such an effort.  All too often healthcare organizations are using a megaphone to engage patients. We need to put the megaphone down and start…

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    Nobody Needs the Doctor’s Office

    Convenience is the most important aspect of the new healthcare world.

    These days, a sore throat doesn’t always warrant a call to your primary care physician. Instead, a quick search on your favorite health site can give you the information you seek and you don’t even have to leave your desk. Ever heard of WebMD? (Uh, yeah).  The last place any of us want to be is in a doctor’s office, waiting to be seen, waiting to get an answer and just waiting to catch what the guy next to us has.

    At the Virginia Society of Healthcare Marketing and PR (VSHMPR) Fall Conference, I learned consumers are no longer accepting the traditional patient-doctor relationship. We are empowered. We are informed. We are connected. And we’ll take drastic measures to avoid a doctor’s office.

    One medical groupThat’s why One Medical Group is reinventing the doctor’s office. If you ask them, they prefer not to be categorized as a doctor’s office at all. They don’t treat patients, they engage with members. Appointments are not only guaranteed to start on time, but also last longer and offer a higher quality interaction. They also…

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