This is not the first time we’ve seen a cleaning crew accidentally improperly dispose of patient records, but I do like Allina Health’s response to this incident to prevent recurrences.
February 23 – This announcement is regarding a privacy incident that occurred at Minneapolis Heart Institute® at Abbott Northwestern Hospital, located at 800 E 28thSt., Minneapolis, MN 55407.
On Jan. 20, 2017, Allina Health discovered that paper documents from a large blue recycling bin within a physician’s private office were emptied into the trash before the physician was able to empty the bin into a secured shredding console. Based on Allina Health’s comprehensive investigation, it appears likely that a cleaning crew member emptied the recycling bin containing the paper documents into trash bags and placed the bags in a dumpster for the site. The documents may have included patient information, including names, dates of birth, medical record numbers, addresses, clinical information, and insurance information such as plan number (including Social Security numbers for individuals whose health insurance identification number is their Social Security number).
At this time, there is no indication that patient information was misused in any way and Allina Health believes the risk is very low that any unauthorized person saw or used the information inappropriately. However, in the interest of protecting our patients, and in accordance with law, Allina Health is mailing letters to all patients who had at least one appointment with the physician or were part of the physician’s group’s hospital service between April 17, 2016 and Jan. 17, 2017. The letter explains the situation and offers one year of free credit monitoring/identity protection services to patients potentially affected by the incident.
To address the situation, Allina Health has simplified its systemwide process to require all paper and documents be placed into secured or locked shredding bins, whether or not the paper contains patient information. All paper is shredded and then recycled.
The enhanced process also removes all desk-side recycling bins to prevent paper from being placed into recycling without being shredded first. Finally, Allina Health has undertaken a system wide awareness campaign to inform the workforce of the simplified “shred all paper” disposal process and reinforced its safeguards policy to re-emphasize the importance of proper disposal.
Patients who believe they may have been impacted or patients who have other questions should call toll-free 1-866-221-0155 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Central Time) Monday – Friday.
According to HHS’s public breach tool, 776 patients were affected.