CA: 1200 Sutter Gould Medical Foundation patients' records tossed into dump
Paper medical records belonging to approximately 1,200 patients who visit Sutter Gould Medical Foundation physicians in Stockton and Lodi were lost May 27. They ended up buried in a landfill.
The documents – all in one box – contained patient names, addresses, diagnostic test results, provider notes and correspondence, Social Security numbers, disability forms and insurance information, according to a statement released by Modesto-based Sutter Gould this week.
Spokesman Craig Baize said it does not appear that any of the records were compromised or misused. They simply went out with the trash after having been scanned by a vendor to create digital files for Sutter Gould’s electronic health records system.
I went searching and found a notice on their web site, although it is not linked prominently from their home page. The notice reads:
MODESTO – June 13, 2011– Approximately 1200 patients receiving care at Sutter Gould Medical Foundation (SGMF) care center locations in the Stockton-Lodi area may have been affected by a loss of patient information.
SGMF was notified by a contracted document imaging vendor on May 27 that a box containing some of their patients’ information was missing. The documents contained patient names, addresses, diagnostic test results, provider notes and correspondence, social security numbers, disability forms and insurance information.
Document imaging vendors are routinely used by health care providers to create digital files of health information, enabling the information to be included in electronic health record systems.
“Working with our vendor, every effort was made to locate the missing information,” said Sandy Bellew, Health Privacy Information Officer at SGMF. “When it was determined that the box and its contents were not going to be located in a timely manner, we began steps to notify our patients.”
Initial results of SGMF’s investigation indicate that the box was placed in a dumpster that was emptied at a city landfill. The management company for the landfill has indicated that their practice is to bury trash the same day it is dumped.
“We continue to work with our vendor to investigate this incident,” said Bellew.
All impacted patients have been identified and notified by mail. Although there is no reason to indicate these patients’ information has been misused, SGMF is offering one year of credit check protection at no expense to their affected patients as a precaution. Each patient has received a letter containing a unique code and a toll-free number to call to enroll in the credit protection service.
“Sutter Gould Medical Foundation holds the confidentiality and trust of our patients in the highest regard,” said Bellew. “We sincerely apologize for this unfortunate event and any inconvenience this may cause.”
For additional information, or to contact SGMF with any questions, a telephone number has been setup for affected patients. The number is 1-877-398-1294. Patients may also email questions to SGMF at [email protected].
I’m not sure why they shielded the vendor’s name, as they will undoubtedly have to report it to HHS and it will show up on HHS’s breach tool eventually.
Updated August 19, 2011: the incident is now on HHS’s breach tool:
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