Foundations Recovery Network notifying patients after a laptop with PHI was stolen from an employee's car

Foundations Recovery Network sent out this letter to patients last week:

I am writing on behalf of Foundations Recovery Network to inform you of a recent privacy incident concerning your personal information. On Saturday, June 15 th, one of our employees informed us that she had been the victim of a burglary during the early morning hours on June 15 th at approximately 2:45 a.m. and that her company laptop had been stolen. The laptop contained certain aspects of patient information which she needed as part of her role with our company. The employee reported the theft immediately to law enforcement authorities. We understand that the theft was one of several that took place in her neighborhood that night, so we do not believe the thief specifically targeted her or the laptop.

At this time, we do not know whether the information on the laptop has been accessed. It is important to note that the information is password protected. However, because the safety and security of your information is our utmost priority, we wanted to contact you out of an abundance of caution and make you aware of the situation. The potentially disclosed information may include your personal information (such as name, date of birth, address, telephone number and social security number) and medical information (such as diagnosis — the majority of which were listed in numeric medical code only, level of care, date of service, and health insurance information). We
sincerely regret that this incident occurred.

Even though we have no reason to believe that your information has been accessed by anyone outside our organization at this time, and we do not believe any of your financial information is included on the stolen laptop, we want to make sure you are aware of the incident and have resources available to protect your personal information. Therefore, we have contracted with Experian to provide to you a free one year membership in Experian’ se ProtectMyIDe Alert. This product helps detect possible misuse of your personal information and provides you with identity protection services focused on immediate identification and resolution of identity theft. You may sign up for this service by following the instructions on the last page of this letter in Attachment B. You will be able to access this offer at no cost to you until October 31, 2013. See the attachments to this letter for more information regarding enrollment in Experian’ se ProtectMyIDe Alert and other measures you may want to take.

Again, maintaining the integrity of confidential information is extremely important to us. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this incident has caused for you. Please be assured that we will keep you informed of any developments in the investigation that may be of importance to you. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at 888-312-3310.

Of course, they are not notifying patients “in an abundance of caution” of their own volition. They have to notify them under the new HITECH regulations. And where is their statement about whether the employee violated protocol by not having the files encrypted and by leaving the laptop in an unattended vehicle overnight? Was Foundations Recovery Network okay with this? If not, what are they doing to ensure this doesn’t happen again?

Foundations Recovery Network is headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. They have three inpatient treatment centers and a number of outpatient treatment centers across the country. From their letter, it is not clear whether the stolen data were from one center’s patients or multiple centers’ patients. There is no notice or statement on their web site about the breach, but a copy of the breach notification letter appeared on California’s breach reporting site today.

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