NJ: Barnabas Health notified patients after laptop with pediatric patients' pulmonary testing data was stolen from center

One of the breaches recently added to HHS’s public-facing breach tool was an incident involving Barnabas Health in New Jersey. In response to my e-mail and phone inquiries, today they sent me a link to a statement that was subsequently posted on their web site:

Posted Date: 12/18/2013

Potential Disclosure of PHI

An unencrypted laptop was stolen on September 24, 2013 from the Barnabas Health Medical Group‘s Pediatric Specialty Center, which was then located in Livingston, NJ. The theft was detected on that same day, and internal security and the police were promptly notified, but the laptop has not yet been recovered. Letters were sent to all affected patients, using the addresses we have on file for those patients.

The stolen laptop was attached to pulmonary function testing (PFT) equipment and contained, on its hard drive, electronic versions of forms with PFT results, which generally included name, date of birth, actual PFT results, other general demographic patient information, the name of the physician and technician and the date the PFT was performed. Despite this theft, we have no evidence that any personal information has been improperly accessed or misused. Print outs of these PFT forms are on file to ensure continuity of care and accessibility by the treating physician.

The laptop and its hard drive did not include any addresses, financial information or insurance or other identification numbers. Nevertheless, patients are asked to review all account statements closely and to immediately report anything suspicious to the applicable insurer and/or the authorities.

After a thorough investigation, measures are being implemented to avoid similar incidents in the future, including directives against the use of unencrypted laptops, and a review of applicable safeguards. Employees of the Center were retrained on various patient privacy and security obligations and policies.

Patients with questions relating to this incident should call 800-583-1191 between the hours of 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM. Barnabas Health Medical Group sincerely regrets this unfortunate incident and considers the security of patient information to be of utmost importance.

According to their report to HHS, 1100 patients were affected by this incident.

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