Fairbanks Hospital notifies patients after discovering employees could have been inappropriately accessing patient records for years (UPDATED)

Fairbanks Hospital in Indianapolis is notifying an undisclosed number of patients that employees could have been accessing protected health information of patients since at least November 2013 (and possibly earlier). The information that was accessed included current and former patients’ social security numbers, contact information, diagnosis, treatment and health insurance.

In a notification dated December 16, the hospital writes that they are unaware of any actual or attempted misuse of any protected health information.

Of concern, it appears that their investigators were not able to determine whether any employee actually accessed any patient’s record inappropriately. So it may well be that some employees snooped on records, and yet, the hospital would not have been able to detect that.  And if it couldn’t detect whether the employees were accessing PHI records inappropriately, it sounds like they might have to notify every patient seen at the hospital since November 2013. DataBreaches.net has sent an inquiry to Fairbanks via their site contact form and will update this post as more information becomes available.

From their notification:

December 16, 2016

To Our Valued Patients,

Fairbanks Hospital recently discovered an event that may affect the security of certain current and former patients’ protected health information. While we are unaware of any actual or attempted misuse of any protected health information, we are providing potentially impacted patients with information about the event, steps taken since discovering the incident, and what they can do to better protect against identity theft and fraud, should they feel it is appropriate to do so.

What Happened? On October 18, 2016, Fairbanks became aware that some files on our internal network that contained patient information were electronically accessible to Fairbanks employees, including employees who were not intended to have access to patient information. Fairbanks hired an outside computer forensics expert to determine the nature and scope of this issue. The investigation has determined that this issue existed since at least November of 2013, however we are unable to determine whether the issue existed prior to that time. We have now corrected this issue so that only the appropriate Fairbanks personnel has electronic access to files containing patient information.

The patient information impacted by this issue was only accessible to Fairbanks employees. Because we have not been able to confirm whether this issue ever resulted in inappropriate access to patient information by a Fairbanks employee, we are providing notice of this incident to all potentially affected individuals in an abundance of caution.

What Information Was Involved? Based upon our investigation, it was determined that the following types of patient information were contained on one or more files on our network that were impacted by this issue: name, Social Security number, date of birth, contact information, patient identification number, diagnosis, treatment information, health insurance information, and information relating to initial admission and scheduling of appointments. The types of information impacted were different depending on the individual patient, with the majority of affected patients only having their name and limited information relating to initial admission and scheduling of appointments impacted. Fairbanks is unaware of any actual or attempted misuse of patient information as a result of this incident.

What Are We Doing? Fairbanks takes the security of our patients’ information very seriously. We have taken steps to ensure only the appropriate Fairbanks personnel has access to patient information. We are mailing written notice of this incident to all potentially impacted individuals for whom we have contact information, along with the same information that is contained below, entitled Steps You Can Take to Protect Against Identity Theft and Fraud. We are also reporting this incident to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and news media outlets servicing the state of Indiana.

[…]

UPDATED DEC. 23: Well, they didn’t answer my emailed inquiry other than to just send me the same notification I had already seen, but it appears that on Dec. 16, they submitted a report to HHS indicating that 12,994 patients were affected.

 

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