Privacy Incident at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Neurology Department

August 22, Boston —  Massachusetts General Hospital (“MGH”) is notifying approximately 9,900 individuals of a privacy incident involving MGH’s Department of Neurology in connection with some of its research programs.

On June 24, 2019, MGH learned that an unauthorized third party had access to databases related to two computer applications used by researchers in the Department of Neurology for specific Neurology research studies. MGH immediately began an investigation into the matter.  The investigation revealed that between June 10 and June 16, 2019 this unauthorized third party had access to databases containing research data used by certain Neurology researchers.

The research data varied according to the specific research study and may have included a participant’s first and last name, certain demographic information (such as marital status, sex, race, ethnicity), date of birth, dates of study visits and tests, medical record number, type of study and research study identification numbers, diagnosis and medical history, biomarkers and genetic information, types of assessments and results, and other research information. Some of the data reflects a subject’s participation many years ago.  For deceased research participants, the research data included date of death, and, when available, summary autopsy results.  The research data did not include any study participant’s Social Security Number, insurance information, or any financial information. The research data did not include any study participant’s address, phone number, or other contact information. The incident did not involve MGH’s medical records systems. 

As soon as MGH discovered this incident, it took steps to prevent further unauthorized access and restore the affected research computer applications and databases. MGH also engaged a third-party forensic investigator to conduct a review and has contacted federal law enforcement as a precaution. MGH continues to review and enhance the security processes in place for its research programs.

MGH is in the process of notifying affected individuals. MGH does not believe there are any specific steps research study participants should take because of this incident; the data did not involve any Social Security Number, insurance or financial information.

MGH is committed to privacy and security of information gathered and maintained as part of its research programs and is taking this matter seriously. Individuals who have any questions or would like additional information can call the following toll-free number: (866) 904-6219, Monday-Friday (9:00 am – 9:00 pm Eastern) or Saturday-Sunday (11:00 am – 8:00 pm Eastern).

Source: Massachusetts General Hospital

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