MA: McLean Hospital to Implement New Security and Training Programs After Data Breach Exposed Sensitive Health Information
There’s a follow-up to a 2015 breach that was previously reported on this blog. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey made the announcement yesterday:
BOSTON — McLean Hospital Corporation will implement new security and training programs and pay a total of $75,000 to resolve claims that it exposed the personal and health information of more than 1,500 people, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
According to the AG’s complaint, filed today along with a consent judgment in Suffolk Superior Court, McLean lost four unencrypted backup computer tapes containing personal and health information of patients, employees and deceased donors of the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center. The AG’s Office alleges McLean violated the Consumer Protection Law, the Massachusetts Data Security Law, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act when it failed to properly protect patients’ personal and health information.
“Hospitals must take measures to protect the private information of their patients,” said AG Healey. “This settlement requires McLean Hospital to implement a new information security program and train its staff on how to properly handle the private information of those they serve.”
The AG’s complaint alleges that McLean, a psychiatric hospital in Belmont, allowed an employee to regularly take home eight unencrypted back-up tapes containing clinical and demographic information from the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center that the hospital possessed. The tapes contained personal information such as names, social security numbers, diagnoses and family histories. When the employee was terminated from her position at McLean in May 2015, she only returned four of the tapes, and the hospital was unable to recover the others.
The complaint also alleges several failures by McLean to identify, assess, and plan for security risks, including failing to properly train employees, report the loss of the tapes in a timely manner, and encrypt portable devices containing personal information.
As part of the settlement, McLean has agreed to implement and maintain a written information security program, provide mandatory training to new employees and existing employees on security of personal and health information, encrypt within 60 days all electronic personal and health information within its owned and issued portable devices, and to create and maintain an inventory of these devices.
McLean has also agreed to a third-party audit of the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center’s use and handling of portable devices containing personal and health information, and to report to the AG’s Office the results of this audit and any corrective actions the hospital will take.
This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Michael Wong and Legal Analyst Elizabeth Carnes Flynn of the AG’s Health Care Division.
Read more on Boston25. As noted above, this incident was noted on this blog in 2015 when McClean first disclosed it. But when I check HHS’s public breach tool now, I cannot see where HHS/OCR ever did anything on this one. There is no web description associated with a McLean incident reported to them in July 2015. That was reported to them as affecting 12,673 patients and could well be the same incident. But why is there no note on any investigation or steps the entity took? The incident is in the Archive section of the breach tool.