Hope Hospice notifies patients after email with PHI sent insecurely on two occasions

Hope Hospice officials say they recently discovered a possible information security breach after a routine check found that an employee had e-mailed a report of recent referral and admission activity to themselves through an unsecured channel.

Information in the e-mail, which was sent in December and again in February, included names of over 800 Hope Hospice patients, referral sources, admission and discharge dates, the names of insurance providers, and chart numbers.

The information did not include other sensitive personal identification like social security numbers, dates of birth, or addresses.

Due to the number of affected individuals and Hope Hospice’s policy against using unsecured channels for communicating patient information, they say that each patient or their next of kin is being notified of the incident.

KGNB in Texas reports Hope Hospice officials are notifying patients of a potential security breach involving PHI sent insecurely by an employee.  You can read their news story here.

A statement buried somewhat internally on the hospice’s web site says:

Through a routine internal compliance audit on February 25, 2013, Hope Hospice discovered a potential security breach after finding an employee had emailed a report of recent referral and admission activity to themselves via an unsecured channel on December 27, 2012 and February 22, 2013. The information included in the report was limited to 818 patient names, referral source, referral and admission date, name of insurance company, chart number, county and date of discharge. The information did not include other sensitive personal identification such as social security numbers, dates of birth or addresses. Due to the number of affected individuals and the agency’s policy against using unsecured channels for communicating patient information, each patient or their next of kin is being notified of the occurrence.

The information was secured February 28, 2013 and the Agency does not believe the type of information included presents a risk of financial harm. However,  affected individuals are encouraged to contact their financial institutions as well as any one of the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on their account.

In response to this incident, all staff members have received additional training, and the agency is performing a comprehensive review to further refine its policies and procedures related to patient privacy and security. Steps are also underway to further improve the security of the agency’s operations.

The agency has a toll-free number to call us with questions and concerns about your personal information.  You may call Debra Houser-Bruchmiller, CEO at 800-499-7501 from 8 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday with any questions. In addition, patients may visit the agency’s website at www.hopehospice.net for further information and links to web sites that offer information on what to do if your personal information has been compromised.

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