Health data missing: HealthAlliance PDA lost

Lisa Eckelbecker of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reports:

The healthcare system Central New England HealthAlliance has sent letters to 384 patients notifying them that their personal information, including Social Security numbers and health insurance information, may be vulnerable because a hand-held computer used by a home health nurse is missing.


In a letter dated April 17 that was sent to HealthAlliance home health patients, HealthAlliance Director of Compliance and Corporate Privacy David J. Murray wrote that a home health nurse noticed her PDA was missing on or about March 12. Nurses use the PDAs to document care while they are visiting patients, then connect them to HealthAlliance computers at the end of the day to update electronic medical records, he wrote.

The nurse, who was not named by HealthAlliance, reported the loss of the PDA immediately but the report did not reach the system’s corporate compliance officer for several weeks because of a “lapse in communication,” according to Mrs. Burke.


Information on the PDA included names, addresses, Social Security numbers, health insurance information and records of the most recent seven days of medical treatment, HealthAlliance reported. The data was not encrypted, Mrs. Burke said. The PDA required a password when turned on, but HealthAlliance said in its letter that it could not discount a hacker’s ability to get past the password.

Full story – Worcester Telegram & Gazette

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