NY: Montefiore Medical Center discloses fourth insider-wrongdoing breach in seven months

Montefiore Medical Center in New York is notifying patients of yet another insider-wrongdoing breach. Read their press release below and then the comments after it.

April 13, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Today, Montefiore Medical Center is notifying some patients about a security breach involving information illegally accessed by a former employee.

Categories of personal information accessed varied and may include first and last names, medical record numbers, addresses, emails, dates of birth and the last 4-digits of Social Security numbers. There is no evidence that financial information, including credit card numbers, or clinical information was accessed. The inappropriate access occurred between January 2020 and February 2021.

Montefiore requires criminal background checks on all employees and has comprehensive privacy policies, including a strict Code of Conduct that prohibits employees from looking at patient records unless they have a work-related reason. The employee involved in this case chose to violate these policies. Montefiore’s FairWarning software, which monitors improper access to electronic patient records, identified the employee.

Upon learning of this situation, Montefiore immediately suspended the employee and disabled access to its electronic medical records system. After a thorough investigation, the employee was fired, and the case was referred to law enforcement for possible criminal prosecution.

To date, there is no evidence of identity theft, nor that patients or their insurance companies were improperly billed. Montefiore recommends that patients remain vigilant and carefully review statements from healthcare providers. Please immediately initiate direct contact with your provider regarding any questionable billing. Additional details on identity theft protection will be included in patient notification letters.

This press release is in accordance with the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. Montefiore Health System has notified affected members and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

SOURCE Montefiore Medical Center

Criminal Background Check Image

Commentary by Dissent:

This appears to be the fourth breach notification Montefiore has made involving insider-wrongdoing since September, 2020. The September incident impacted 4,004 patients, the December one impacted 670 patients, and the January, 2021 one impacted 1787 patients. The current notice does not indicate the number of patients impacted and this incident is not on HHS’s public breach tool at the time of this publication.

The four insider-wrongdoing incidents noted above are not the only insider-wrongdoing incidents experienced by Montefiore Medical Center, however. There have been others, as reported on this site in the past. So DataBreaches.net reached out to Montefiore Medical Center to ask some questions.

  1. The motivation for one of the incidents appeared to be related to a fraudulent billing scheme. But what does Montefiore know about the motivation of the employees involved in the other three recent incidents? In all cases, the matters were reportedly referred to law enforcement for possible criminal prosecution. For what?
  2. When did Montefiore first start implementing employee access monitoring software like FairWarning? The September, 2020 notification said that unnamed software had identified the employee, but it also reported that the improper access had gone on between January 2018 and July 2020. Was monitoring software in place for all that time? And the newest notification states that FairWarning software identified the employee — but the improper access actually went on for more than one year. Was FairWarning deployed during the entire time? If so, why did it take more than one year to flag a problem?
  3. Montefiore’s notices indicate that it conducts criminal background checks. Has Montefiore changed its background checks in any way as a result of all of these incidents? Did these four employees have any criminal history before they started working at Montefiore, or did a routine criminal background check just miss relevant information?
  4. In light of repeated insider-wrongdoing incidents, what is Montefiore doing to significantly improve security of ePHI and to prevent employee access in excess of authorized use or legitimate purpose?

No answer was received from Montefiore by the time of publication, but this post will be updated if a response is received.  In the meantime, let’s consider one more possibility:

Is Montefiore somehow worse than other covered entities when it comes to insider-wrongdoing breaches, or is it just better at discovering these incidents and disclosing them to patients and HHS?

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