Attorney for doctors in WDH privacy breach disputes AG's finding

Adam D. Krauss continues to update us on this case:

An attorney for two doctors impacted by the privacy breach at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital says the Office of the Attorney General would have found WDH had to notify patients if the state knew a rogue employee accessed patients’ social security numbers and sensitive insurance policy data.

Charles Grau, a Concord attorney representing Drs. Cheryl Moore and Glenn Littell, said the state based its review on a summary of the audit conducted after the 13-month breach without considering images of computer screens showing the specific data fields viewed by the ex-WDH employee.

The employee accessed more than 1,100 patients records on file at the hospital’s pathology lab about 1,800 times from May 2006 to June 2007 after she was transferred from the lab, the doctors say.

James Boffetti, who leads the AG’s consumer protection and antitrust bureau, said on Thursday that there was “insufficient information” to conclude the breach fits the definition of a security breach as defined by RSA 359-C: 19.


This case is raising a number of questions and is making WDH “look bad” in terms of not contacting patients or families of deceased patients. Even if one gives WDH the full benefit of any doubt as to their motives and determinations, I think this case is a useful reminder that “when in any doubt, notify.” Insider breaches are one of the biggest challenges in security. In this case, where there was no financial fraud, I still think it would have been best for the hospital to notify everyone, reassure them that they were not at any known risk of fraud (if that is a reasonable belief), that their records are being reviewed and corrected, and any other steps the hospital is taking to reduce the risk of a similar breach in the future.

If you give people information, don’t try to minimize, give them a phone number to call if they are concerned or have questions, and are responsive, a breach doesn’t have to leave your reputation damaged. In fact, as I commented about Johns Hopkins on a few occasions, their forthright handling of breaches may actually instill more trust in patients who know that if something happens, the hospital will be “up front” with them.

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