PruittHealth Home Health – Low County notifies patients after office burglary
For the fourth time in less than three years, a PruittHealth entity has reported an incident to HHS that affected more than 500 patients. This time, it’s PruiittHealth Home – Low Country in South Carolina. From their public notice:
Beaufort, South Carolina, April 8, 2016 – PruittHealth Home Health – Low Country, a provider of home health services in the Beaufort, South Carolina area, is committed to its patients’ privacy and to compliance with applicable federal and state regulations. The purpose of this notice is to comply with 45 C.F.R. § 164.406, which requires the notification of media outlets serving the State or jurisdiction of a breach of unsecured protected health information involving more than 500 residents of a State or jurisdiction.
On the night of March 2, 2016, the offices of PruittHealth Home Health – Low Country were broken into by thieves. The perpetrators broke the glass of the front door and entered the offices. Nothing was stolen but petty cash. The thieves had the opportunity to access all of the medical records kept in the office, although it does not appear that any medical records were taken or even disturbed. The types of personal information that could have been accessed include things like patient names, addresses, social security numbers, dates of birth, dates of service, location of service, and other clinical information. Again, there is no indication that any of this information was actually accessed by the perpetrators.
The Beaufort Police Department and PruittHealth’s Privacy Officer, Joan Chapman, were notified of the incident on March 3, 2016. PruittHealth Home Health – Low Country continues to cooperate fully with the Beaufort Police Department investigation to apprehend the perpetrators. PruittHealth Home Health – Low Country has safeguards in place to protect the privacy and security employee and patient information. As a result of this incident, we are taking additional steps to secure our office.
All potentially affected patients have been notified by PruittHealth’s Privacy Officer via notification letter by first class mail. This notice included detailed information on how to contact the major credit bureaus and place an alert or a security freeze on their credit files. The PruittHealth Privacy Officer is also available to call with questions related to the incident. Individuals may call (678) 533-6437 from 9:00 until 5:00 with questions or call toll-free at any time at 1-800-222-0321 and request a return call from the Privacy Officer.
So any risk assessment would likely put this at low-risk, and some may be wondering why PruittHealth even reported it, but for HITECH. The incident was reported to HHS as impacting 1,500 and involving paper records.