SC: Employee fired after Bon Secours St. Francis Health System data breach discovered

Liv Osby reports:

An employee at Bon Secours St. Francis Health System has been terminated after hospital officials discovered that she had inappropriately accessed personal patient information.

Hospital employees began reporting in July that their insurers had recorded unpaid balances and charges for a prescription cream, officials said in a statement.

An investigation concluded on Aug. 26 that an employee had been accessing patient medical records “in a manner that was inconsistent with her job functions, hospital procedures and … training,” between Jan. 1, 2014 and Aug. 12, 2015, according to the statement.

The number of affected patients wasn’t provided.

Read more on Greenville Online.

The full statement from Bon Secours Health System follows:

This notice is to inform our patients of a recent incident involving a group of our patients’ personal health information.  In late July of this year, employees reported concerns regarding bills they received for unpaid balances for a prescription cream. Additionally, some employees noted the insurance company was being billed very high dollar amounts for a prescription cream.  An investigation was launched in response to these concerns.  The investigation revealed that a co-worker of the affected employees had caused potentially fraudulent charges to be billed to the other employee’s insurance plans.  Because of the alleged behavior of the accused employee, and out of an abundance of caution, Bon Secours began an audit to assess this employee’s access of our patients’ medical records.

On August 26, 2015 we became aware of a concerning pattern of access of patient medical records by this employee. Further investigation revealed that between January 1, 2014 and August 12, 2015 the employee accessed patients’ medical records in a manner that was inconsistent with her job functions, hospital procedures and the training that this employee received regarding the appropriate access of patients’ medical records.  The type of information the employee accessed included patients’ names, dates of birth, driver’s license numbers, insurance information, clinical information, such as diagnosis, and potentially Social Security numbers.

Law enforcement was previously contacted regarding the charges to fellow employees’ insurance plans as described above.  Due to the nature of the accesses, and out of an abundance of caution to protect our patients, we have made law enforcement, specifically the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (“SLED”), aware of the findings from the audit.

The employee involved in this incident has been terminated.

Although we have nothing to indicate this type of access has been undertaken by any other employee, we are providing supplementary education to all current employees.  This training is in addition to our mandatory privacy education all employees participate in on an annual basis. The training will remind our employees that inappropriate use, access or disclosure of patients’ information will result in serious consequences up to and including termination and, where applicable, the involvement of law enforcement.

Out of an abundance of caution, we began sending letters to affected patients on October 23, 2015, and are offering eligible patients credit monitoring services. We also recommend that affected patients review their explanation of benefits received from their health insurer.  If the patients see services that they did not receive, please contact the insurer immediately.

If you have any questions or believe you are affected, please call the dedicated call center at 844-369-9359 between the hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Representatives will be available to take your call.

We deeply regret that this has happened.  Bon Secours St. Francis takes its responsibility for protecting our patients’ personal information and using it in an appropriate manner very seriously.  Please know that our employees work hard every day to provide excellent care to our patients.  Words cannot express how deeply disappointed we are that this has occurred.

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