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3 Threats that are on the rise for LGBT teens

We need to talk more about our experiences with threats, as well as what can be done to fight them, and see justice when it’s too late.



The lives and wellbeing of LGBT teens have improved dramatically over the past two decades thanks to the tireless work of advocates, lobbyist groups, and lawmakers, both within the community and allies beyond it. However, with the rise of popular hateful rhetoric and the glacially slow pace of social change, many of our LGBT youth still face drastic threats from both the society at large and those closest to them.


We need to talk more about our experiences with these threats, as well as what can be done to fight them, and see justice when it’s too late.

Hate crimes

Going against the general trend, hate crimes have been shown to increase for the past two years in a row. With more politics-driven violent crimes taking part at protests, it’s easy to chalk this up to an aberration. Indeed, there has been a 400% rise in homicides targeting LGBT individuals, but also a rise in similarly targeted assaults that end up accidentally fatal. Wrongful death cases, of which you can see more here, can help the bereaved find justice in such cases, but hate crimes need to be treated more seriously to stop them from getting to that point.

A part of the general ignorance surrounding this topic is the widespread underreporting of anti-LGBT violent crime in news media, compared to other violent crimes.


LGBT youth are under significantly greater stress than any other demographic mentioned in recent studies, as you can see here. Besides creating a culture that is becoming more and more difficult to find comfort in, this has led to what could be called a suicide crisis for LGBT teens. In a National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, over 40% of high school students who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or questioning reported suicidal thoughts. The same study had no stats for transgender teenagers, but many are concerned they face a similar, if not higher, risk.


One of the issues very little discussed when it comes to LGBT people is their higher rates of homelessness than other demographics. Homelessness is on the rise in general, with 2017 being the first year to see a rise since the Great Depression. However, 20% of homeless youth are LGBT, which is double the 10% of LGBT teens in the population, which you can read more about here.

In part, severe family conflict lies at the root of most LGBT homelessness, as well as an increased risk of sexual abuse before the age of 12. Homeless shelters need to do more to accommodate their queer beneficiaries. Improving awareness of this over-representation can help shelters focus on training to protect LGBT individuals and to keep discrimination from some of the few safe spaces available to teens in that kind of predicament.

As progressive politics become a more common talking point, it’s easy for many outside the LGBT community to believe that we live in a world that is, by large, post-bigotry. However, we know that’s not true and we must continue making the case for the marginalized and the threatened, especially those too young to properly defend themselves.


5 Ways to feel the holiday spirit

It’s that time of the year again when the holiday spirit is all around us. And I say: Why not make the most of it by enjoying it?



Yes, it’s that time of the year again when the holiday spirit is all around us. In a country like the Philippines, it – in fact – started as early as September (when what is called the -ber months started, covering September-December) and won’t end until mid-January, when Filipinos mark the Feast of the Three Kings. So the holiday spirit is really inescapable, as malls are decked in Christmas-related decors, kids start their door-to-door caroling (for a fee), offices hold once-a-year parties (as bosses hand out annual bonuses to employees), and DJs in radio stations/TV anchors keep counting the days left before we all mark Christmas and the start of the New Year.

This is not to say that everyone is touched by the holiday spirit. Because there are some who feel the stress brought by the season instead of the joys it brings. And so for these people, partaking in the festivities isn’t necessarily easy.

Worry not, though: With the belief that this season should be enjoyed by everyone (not just kids), we have here five ways to help get you in the festive spirit.

1.  Play the right music.

There’s a running joke in the Philippines – i.e. that the moment you hear Jose Mari Chan’s Christmas in Our Hearts being played on air, it must already be Christmas. This makes Chan adored… and admittedly hated by some.

But the thing is, you don’t have to just stick to Chan’s songs because there’s more to Christmas music than Chan and, yes, jingle bells and reindeer. And many of the popularly played music for the holidays are chart-toppers.

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There’s more to Christmas music than Jose Mari Chan and, yes, jingle bells and reindeer.
Photo by Mohammad Metri from

In the UK, the modern fascination with the race for the festive No. 1 started in 1973, thanks to glam rock bands Slade and Wizzard. Not surprisingly, the Christmas No. 1 has been a feature of the UK Singles Chart since 1952, after the week’s best-selling singles was first published in the New Music Express.

Here are some interesting FYIs:

  • 35% of all Christmas No. 1s are cover songs – meaning originality isn’t always the best way to go when it comes to Christmas singles, given that covers account for 23 of the 66 festive number ones
  • Four acts have ever had multiple Christmas No. 1s: The Beatles, Queen, Cliff Richard and Spice Girls
  • Just 12 out of 66 number ones are actually about Christmas; surprisingly, 33% of Christmas No. 1s are actually about love

But there are numerous holiday-related songs to enjoy.

There’s Do They Know It’s Christmas? by Band Aid (released in 1984), which has gone on to sell over three million copies – more than any other Christmas single. 

There’s Last Christmas by Wham! (released in 1984), the best-selling UK single that actually never reached number one.

Fairytale of New York by The Pogues (recorded in 1987 and released in 1988), which reached the top 20 on 15 separate occasions since losing out to Always On My Mind by the Pet Shop Boys in 1987.

And there’s Cliff Richard’s festive-themed chart-topper Saviour’s Day (released in 1990).

Incidentally, more pop songs (30 chart-toppers) than any other genre scooped Christmas number one. In fact, Ariana Grande (4/9) is the current favorite in the online betting this year. So you may want to consider other genres, too.

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Rock songs account for 11 Christmas number ones, including Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, which took the title in 1975 and 1991 and is the UK’s third-best selling single of all time with 2.53 million sales.

Easy listening, with crooners claiming number one seven times between 1952 and 1976, the most recent of which being Johnny Mathis’ When A Child Is Born.

Choral songs, which are also chart-toppers, most recently A Bridge Over You by the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Choir in 2015.

Or you can even consider soul (with two chart-toppers), dance (also with two chart-toppers), instrumental, folk, disco and a cappella.

The point is, if it gets you in the groove, play it/listen to it. This way, you may finally ease into the holiday mode.

2.  Deck the halls… no, make that the whole house.

Put up the Christmas tree. If you manage to get a fresh one (by ditching the plastic trees), so much the better. Because once set up, staying near that tree, sniffing that pine aroma, is certainly going to pull some strings in you and make you feel… Christmassy.

Bring out those flickering lights, hang the parol (Christmas lantern), place that wreath up, ready the poinsettias, hang the stockings…
Photo by Markus Spiske from

But don’t stop there: bring out those flickering lights, hang the parol (Christmas lantern), place that wreath up, ready the poinsettias, hang the stockings…

All these help make you anticipate that something special is bound to – and will – happen.

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3.  Watch some classics.

Particularly if you’re – say – Netflix- or HOOQ-crazy or is a couch potato, opt to watch some flicks that will remind you why this season is special.

If you’re not keen on a movie that is hard-selling Christmas, there are other holiday-linked films worth considering.
Photo by Sven Scheuermeier from

Off the head, must-consider include: Meet Me in St. Louis (1944); It’s a Wonderful Life (1946); Miracle on 34th Street (1947); White Christmas (1954); Home Alone (1990); The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992); The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993); and Love Actually (2003).

If you’re not keen on a movie that is hard-selling Christmas, there are other holiday-linked films worth considering, including: Gremlins (1984); Die Hard (1988); The Family Stone (2005); Edward Scissorhands (1990); and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005).

4.  Join the parties.

There’s nothing wrong with flying solo; but the holiday season is really about togetherness. So try to get out of your shell and/or comfort zone and mingle. Consider this as an opportunity to party and not be judged for being overly festive (meaning, yes, you can drink and party all you want).

The holiday season is really about togetherness.
Photo by Mel Poole from

5.  Share the spirit.

There are many who may not be as fortunate as you and be unable to celebrate the holidays – e.g. forgotten seniors in old-age homes, kids in orphanages, sick kids in – say – a cancer ward in some hospital, homeless families, et cetera.

As someone who may be in a better position, give some joy by reaching out to them. Maybe – just maybe – by seeing that you’re actually in a far, far better position than many others, you’d understand that there are actually things to be thankful for this season.

As someone who may be in a better position, give some joy by reaching out to them.
Photo by David Everett Strickler from

So, yes, it’s that time of the year again when the holiday spirit is all around us. And I say: Why not make the most of it by enjoying it?

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Health & Wellness

Transmasculine adolescents, teens who don’t exclusively identify as male or female at greatest risk for suicide

50.8% of transmasculine adolescents between the ages of 11 and 19 have attempted suicide at least once, while 41.8% of nonbinary adolescents – those who don’t identify as exclusively male or exclusively female – have attempted suicide.



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Transgender adolescents are at greater risk for attempting suicide than cisgender teens who identify with the gender they are assigned at birth. This is according to a study from the University of Arizona, which takes a deeper look at who within the transgender adolescent community is most at risk.

More specifically, transmasculine adolescents – or those who were born female but identify as male – and teens who don’t identify as exclusively male or female are at the greatest risk for attempting suicide.

The research, done by Russell Toomey and his colleagues and published in the journal Pediatrics, is consistent with findings on transgender adults and could help inform suicide-prevention efforts for transgender youth.

In the past, research on transgender adolescent suicide behaviors focused on comparing transgender youth as a whole group to cisgender youth as a whole group, rather than looking for any within-group differences that might exist.

Toomey and his co-authors found that 50.8% of transmasculine adolescents between the ages of 11 and 19 have attempted suicide at least once, while 41.8% of nonbinary adolescents – those who don’t identify as exclusively male or exclusively female – have attempted suicide. The next most at-risk adolescent groups were transfeminine – those who were born male but identify as female – at 29.9%, and those questioning their gender identity, at 27.9%.

Risk was lower for cisgender teens, or those who identify with the sex they were assigned at birth. Among females, 17.6% said they had attempted suicide, while the number for males was 9.8%.

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The findings are based on an analysis of data from the Profiles of Student Life: Attitudes and Behaviors survey, a national survey designed to provide a snapshot of youth behaviors, attitudes and experiences. The survey focuses on 40 developmental assets know to be associated with healthy development, as well as risk behaviors, such as depression and suicidal behaviors. Data was collected over a 36-month period between 2012 and 2015, and from 120,617 adolescents, most of whom identified as cisgender.

Survey respondents were asked, among other things, about their gender identity and whether or not they had ever attempted suicide. Nearly 14% of all adolescents surveyed reported having attempted suicide at least once.

“Nonbinary youth are putting themselves out there every day as not being read by society as male or female, and there hasn’t been much research on this population, but we expect that they’re probably experiencing the highest levels of discrimination or victimization from their peers and from communities, based on their gender presentation,” Toomey said.

The researchers also found that sexual orientation exacerbated suicide risk for almost everyone in the survey. The only population whose risk didn’t seem to be affected by sexual orientation was the nonbinary population.

“Nonbinary youth do not identify as totally masculine or totally feminine, so it complicates an understanding of sexual orientation, which is rooted in a binary, male-female understanding of gender. Thus, for these youth, the combination of gender and sexual orientation may be more complicated,” Toomey said.

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Toomey and his colleagues similarly examined the impact of other factors – including race and ethnicity, parents’ educational attainment, and the types of communities where teens grow up – on suicide risk.

They found that although cisgender teens who belonged to a racial or ethnic minority had a heightened suicide risk, race and ethnicity was not associated with higher suicide risk in transgender teens.

Toomey and his co-authors also found that some factors that seem to protect cisgender teens from suicide risk – such as having parents with a higher level of educational attainment or having grown up in a more urban versus rural community – do not have the same effect for transgender teens.

Suicide ranks as the second leading cause of death among adolescents and young adults ages 10 to 34 in the US alone; and research suggests that between 28% and 52% of transgender people attempt suicide at some point in their lives. As such, trans-specific factors should be integrated into suicide prevention and intervention strategies.

“Transmasculine youth and nonbinary youth are the two populations that often are the least focused on in the transgender community,” he said. “So really reorganizing our efforts to focus in and try to really understand and learn about the experiences of these youth is critical.”

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The future of mobile phones – What comes next?

Mobile phones have evolved from bulky bricks capable only of calls to tiny pocket-sized computers capable of practically everything. It’s hard to imagine what could come next considering how advanced modern phones already are, but manufacturers and phone carriers are already busy planning new advancements.



In the last three decades, mobile phones have evolved from bulky bricks capable only of calls to tiny pocket-sized computers capable of practically everything. It’s hard to imagine what could come next considering how advanced modern phones already are, but manufacturers and phone carriers are already busy planning new advancements.

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Here are just some of the improvements that are thought to shape the future.


When it comes to wireless plans, people are now getting much more for their money including free texts and even free calls. Plans such as this Verizon wireless plan offer incredibly strong signal and even mobile hotspot data. It’s thought that in the future, ‘unlimited data’ will become the norm and phone/wi-fi signal will be available practically everywhere allowing people to stay constantly connected.


Facial recognition is already here with the iPhone X being the first to pass the tests. Other phones are thought to adopt this technology soon making it a standard feature in the future. Facial recognition can be used a secure alternative to a password preventing anyone else from being able to unlock your phone. It could also become the main form of payment – already you can use your phone to make payments and payment apps are now allowing you to use facial recognition technology. Cards may eventually become defunct given that they pose a greater security risk and facial recognition could take over.  

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This year, Samsung unveiled the prototype for the world’s first foldable phone. Once this technology has been perfected, we could see phones on the market that are able to fold up and fit neatly into the smallest pockets, whilst being able to then fold out to the size of tablets when we need a bigger screen. This could make them both more portable and more practical when doing activities such as reading and watching videos. On top of having foldable screens, phones of the future may even have self-healing screens to counteract damage (such technology is already in development, although it could still be a while until it is perfected).


This technology may be a fair way off yet, but researchers are already looking into it. By using a combination of solar power, hydrogen fuel cells, nanobatteries and perhaps even kinetic energy, it could be possible to keep our phones charged up on the go without ever needing to plug them into a wall. This remains the one big inconvenience with mobile phones – whilst portable chargers already exist, these chargers themselves need to be charged up beforehand. Having a phone that charges itself could make it easier to travel and get by in remote places without having to search for somewhere with a plug point.

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Health & Wellness

Bullying, violence at work increase risk of cardiovascular disease

People bullied frequently (almost every day) in the past 12 months had 120% higher risk of cardiovascular disease, while those exposed most frequently to workplace violence had a 36% higher risk of cerebrovascular disease (such as stroke).



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People who are bullied at work or experience violence at work are at higher risk of heart and brain blood vessel problems, including heart attacks and stroke. This is according a study – “Workplace bullying and workplace violence as risk factors for cardiovascular disease: a multi-cohort study” – done by Tianwei Xu et al. and published in the European Heart Journal.

It is worth stressing that the study was observational, and – as such – “cannot show that workplace bullying or violence cause cardiovascular problems”. However, it – nonetheless – shows that “there is an association (between the two),” and so the results “have important implications for employers and national governments.”

“If there is a causal link between bullying or violence at work and cardiovascular disease, then the removal of workplace bullying would mean we could avoid five per cent of all cardiovascular cases, and the eradication of violence at work would avoid more than three per cent of all cases,” said Tianwei, the lead researcher.

Bullying ‘follows’ LGB people from school to work

It is worth noting that members of the LGBTQIA community are more exposed to bullying. A study released last April 2018, for instance, investigated gender expression and victimization of youth aged 13-18, and it found that the most gender nonconforming students reported higher levels of being bullied, were more likely to report missing school because they feel unsafe, and are most likely to report being victimized with a weapon on school property.

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Sadly, for LGBTQIA people who are bullied at school, the bullying follows them to the workplace. A study released in November 2018 found that 35.2% of gay/bisexual men who had experienced frequent school-age bullying experience frequent workplace bullying. Among lesbian women, the figure was 29%.

For Tianwei’s study in particular, the researchers looked at data from 79,201 working men and women in Denmark and Sweden, aged 18 to 65, with no history of cardiovascular disease (CVD), who were participants in three studies that started between 1995 and 2011; the participants have been followed up ever since. When they joined the studies, the participants were asked about bullying and violence in the workplace and the frequency of their experience of each of them. Information on the number of cases of heart and brain blood vessel disease and deaths was obtained from nationwide registries.

The researchers also took account of other factors that could affect whether or not the participants were affected by CVD, including body mass index, alcohol consumption, smoking, mental disorders and other pre-existing health conditions, shift working and occupation.

Nine percent of participants reported being bullied at work and 13% reported experiencing violence or threats of violence at work in the past year. After adjusting for age, sex, country of birth, marital status and level of education, the researchers found that those who were bullied or experienced violence (or threats of violence) at work had a 59% and 25% higher risk of CVD, respectively, compared to people who were not exposed to bullying or violence.

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The more bullying or violence that was encountered, the greater the risk of CVD. Compared with people who did not suffer bullying, people who reported being bullied frequently (the equivalent to being bullied almost every day) in the past 12 months had 120% higher risk of CVD, while those who were exposed most frequently to workplace violence had a 36% higher risk of cerebrovascular disease (such as stroke) than those not exposed to violence, but there did not appear to be a corresponding increase in heart disease.

1-in-4 girls, 1-in-10 boys report self-injury or attempt suicide due to fighting, bullying or forced sex

“Workplace bullying and workplace violence are distinct social stressors at work. Only 10-14% of those exposed to at least one type of exposure were suffering from the other at the same time. These stressful events are related to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease in a dose-response manner – in other words, the greater the exposure to the bullying or violence, the greater the risk of cardiovascular disease,” Tianwei said. “From this study we cannot conclude that there is a causal relation between workplace bullying or workplace violence and cardiovascular disease, but we provide empirical evidence in support of such a causal relation, especially given the plausible biological pathway between workplace major stressors and cardiovascular disease.”

The effect of bullying and violence on the incidence of cardiovascular disease in the general population is comparable to other risk factors, such as diabetes and alcohol drinking, which further highlights the importance of workplace bullying and workplace violence in relation to cardiovascular disease prevention. For Tianwei, “it is important to prevent workplace bullying and workplace violence from happening, as they constitute major stressors for those exposed. It is also important to have policies for intervening if bullying or violence occurs.”

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Other interesting findings from the research included the fact that bullying in the workplace occurred mostly from colleagues (79%) rather than from people outside the organization (21%), whereas violence or threats of violence at work originated mainly from people outside the organization (91%), than from within (9%). This, combined with the fact that those exposed most frequently to workplace violence were not more likely to suffer from heart disease, suggests that workers may have received training about how to deal with violence they encounter as part of their jobs and may be better equipped to deal with it and avoid long-term consequences.

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Blued pokes fun on awkward sexting encounters to encourage safer sex & promote HIV awareness

Blued wants to remind its users to get tested for HIV and practice safer sex.



From unsolicited dick pics to inappropriately direct sexual invitations, together with exposure to extreme kinks and aggressive flirting from total strangers, the online gay world can sometimes feel like the sexual equivalent of rush hour on a Friday night.  

But while hooking up in the digital age can be messy and confusing, one rule should be clear: when your partner refuses to practice safer sex, it’s time to stop and make a U-turn.

In celebration of World AIDS Day this December 1, the world’s largest gay social app Blued–a platform that’s facilitated millions of awkward sexting encounters–wants to remind its users to get tested for HIV and practice safer sex, through a series of videos where a user aggressively sexts multiple people, and hooks up with a guy who’s only willing to have sex, as long as it’s safe.

Currently, Blued has close to one million users in the Philippines, where as many as 32 people test positive for HIV every day, mostly among men having sex with men.

This stems from a lack of education on how HIV is transmitted, as well as the stigma of sex and the continuing discrimination of the LGBT community.

No longer just for gay trysts…

“We at Blued believe in sex-positivity, and that the abstinence-only solution to stopping HIV is not exactly the most realistic solution for a lot of people,” says Evan Tan, country marketing manager of Blued in the Philippines. “By making fun of awkward sexual encounters, we want people to lighten up their attitudes towards sex–but also remember that using condoms, getting tested for HIV regularly, adhering to your PrEP regimen, and establishing to your partners that safer sex is a non-negotiable rule, will allow you to enjoy your sex life even further.”

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Health & Wellness

Healthcare providers – not hackers – leak more of your medical data

After reviewing detailed reports, assessing notes and reclassifying cases with specific benchmarks, researchers found that 53% were the result of internal factors in healthcare entities.



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Yes, your personal identity may be at the mercy of sophisticated hackers on many websites; but surprisingly, when it comes to health data breaches, hackers aren’t the ones to blame. Instead, hospitals, doctors’ offices and even insurance companies are oftentimes the culprits.

This is according to a research from Michigan State University and Johns Hopkins University, which found that more than half of the recent personal health information (or PHI) data breaches were because of internal issues with medical providers – not because of hackers or external parties.

“There’s no perfect way to store information, but more than half of the cases we reviewed were not triggered by external factors – but rather by internal negligence,” said John (Xuefeng) Jiang, lead author and associate professor of accounting and information systems at MSU’s Eli Broad College of Business.

The research, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, follows the joint 2017 study that showed the magnitude of hospital data breaches in the US. The research revealed nearly 1,800 occurrences of large data breaches in patient information over a seven years, with 33 hospitals experiencing more than one substantial breach.

For this research, Jiang and co-author Ge Bai, associate professor at the John’s Hopkins Carey Business School, dove deeper to identify triggers of the PHI data breaches. They reviewed nearly 1,150 cases between October 2009 and December 2017 that affected more than 164 million patients.

“Every time a hospital has some sort of a data breach, they need to report it to the Department of Health and Human Services and classify what they believe is the cause,” Jiang said. “These causes fell into six categories: theft, unauthorized access, hacking or an IT incident, loss, improper disposal or ‘other.'”

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After reviewing detailed reports, assessing notes and reclassifying cases with specific benchmarks, Jiang and Bai found that 53% were the result of internal factors in healthcare entities.

“One quarter of all the cases were caused by unauthorized access or disclosure – more than twice the amount that were caused by external hackers,” Jiang said. “This could be an employee taking PHI home or forwarding to a personal account or device, accessing data without authorization, or even through email mistakes, like sending to the wrong recipients, copying instead of blind copying or sharing unencrypted content.”

While some of the errors seem to be common sense, Jiang said that the big mistakes can lead to even bigger accidents and that seemingly innocuous errors can compromise patients’ personal data.

“Hospitals, doctors offices, insurance companies, small physician offices and even pharmacies are making these kinds of errors and putting patients at risk,” Jiang said.

Of the external breaches, theft accounted for 33% with hacking credited for just 12%.

While some data breaches might result in minor consequences, such as obtaining the phone numbers of patients, others can have much more invasive effects. For example, when Anthem Inc. suffered a data breach in 2015, 37.5 million records were compromised. Many of the victims were not notified immediately, so weren’t aware of the situation until they went to file their taxes only to discover that a third-party fraudulently filed them with the data they obtained from Anthem.

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While tight software and hardware security can protect from theft and hackers, Jiang and Bai suggest health care providers adopt internal policies and procedures that can tighten processes and prevent internal parties from leaking PHI by following a set of simple protocols. The procedures to mitigate PHI breaches related to storage include transitioning from paper to digital medical records, safe storage, moving to non-mobile policies for patient-protected information and implementing encryption. Procedures related to PHI communication include mandatory verification of mailing recipients, following a “copy vs. blind copy” protocol (bcc vs cc) as well as encryption of content.

“Not putting on the whole armor opened health care entities to enemy’s attacks,” Bai said. “The good news is that the armor is not hard to put on if simple protocols are followed.”

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