BJC HealthCare Accountable Care Organization Notifies Patients of Unencrypted Email

(Feb. 26, 2016, ST. LOUIS) – BJC HealthCare Accountable Care Organization (BJC ACO) has notified 2,393 patients that identifying information was sent to a participating medical practice through an unencrypted email. All affected patients have been offered identity theft protection free of charge.

BJC ACO discovered on Dec. 30, 2015, that an email containing health information without the required security encryption was sent to a participating BJC ACO medical practice. The email was delivered to the correct and intended recipient. It contained a list of patients that included name, gender, date of birth and Medicare beneficiary identification number. The email did NOT contain medical information such as diagnosis, tests, results, treatment or hospitalization, or financial data.

BJC ACO investigated the email transmission and has discovered no indication that anyone other than the intended and authorized recipient at the medical practice read or accessed the email. BJC ACO has taken steps to re-educate staff on the process for sending emails in a secure manner.

Encryption is a process that translates information into a format that cannot be easily understood by an unauthorized recipient. It is required to be used when transmitting protected/personal health information (PHI) between health care providers.

Patients whose names were included on the list have been mailed a letter explaining what occurred, how to enroll in identity theft protection as a precaution and who to contact with any questions. Patient questions can be directed to 844-644-4305 or by mail to BJC HealthCare, 4901 Forest Park Ave., Mailstop 90-75-571, St. Louis, Mo., 63108.

BJC ACO has complied with all U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights notification requirements, including individual patient letters, public news release and website posting.

BJC HealthCare was the first provider in the St. Louis area and one of 89 U.S. health care providers selected in 2012 as an Accountable Care Organization by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. CMS established ACOs that year to encourage groups of doctors, hospitals and other providers to coordinate health care services for Medicare patients and share in savings obtained through high-quality, well-coordinated care. BJC ACO currently coordinates care for approximately 40,000 patients in the BJC service area of metropolitan St. Louis, southern Illinois and mid-Missouri.


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