On Monday, Redwood Memorial Hospital notified 1,039 patients by U.S. Postal Service of the discovery of a missing thumb drive that may have contained identifiable information. On Nov. 8, a hospital employee discovered that an unencrypted thumb drive was missing since Nov. 6 from the Cardiopulmonary Services Department at Redwood Memorial Hospital. At this time, the thumb drive has not been recovered.
We have not identified that patients’ social security numbers, nor other types of financial data, were stored on this thumb drive. The information on the drive may have included the following patient information: first and last name; facility name and address where services were rendered; ID and medical record numbers; date of birth; gender; operator/technician name; physician name; report ID#; test indications; age; height; weight; test recording and analysis dates and times; and clinical summary of test findings. The information contained on the thumb drive related to a specific test performed in the cardiopulmonary department at Redwood Memorial Hospital with dates of service between the years of 2001 and 2013.
The information had been intended to be maintained securely and used at the hospital. Since discovering this situation, additional steps have been taken to ensure mobile devices have been secured within the hospital. Currently, Redwood Memorial Hospital and St. Joseph Hospital are working to review security policies and procedures relating to the use of mobile devices and will make changes where necessary to safeguard data.
”We are deeply sorry for this oversight and take it very seriously. As soon as we were made aware, we took immediate action to safeguard our patients’ information,” said David O’Brien, MD, president, St. Joseph and Redwood Memorial hospitals. “We remain committed to providing all of our patients with safe, quality care and will work hard to protect the confidentiality of their data.”
Each patient was notified this week via a personal letter mailed to their home address. We have also established a special phone line where affected patients can call and have any concerns or questions immediately addressed. Patients who are affected by this event may call 707-269-3685.
So if “the information had been intended to be maintained securely and used at the hospital,” does that mean that it was supposed to be encrypted on the thumb drive or that a thumb drive shouldn’t have been used at all – or both? And why was it necessary to have records going back to 2001 on a portable drive anyway?