Three newly revealed breaches affect over 20,000

Cross-posted from PHIprivacy.net:

The new HHS/OCR web site has added three more breach reports:

Montefiore Medical Center
State: New York
Approx. # of Individuals Affected: 625
Date of Breach: 2/20/10
Type of Breach: Theft
Location of Breached Information: Laptop

Private Practice
City and State: San Antonio, Texas
Approx. # of Individuals Affected: 21,000
Date of Breach: 2/20/10
Type of Breach: Theft
Location of Breached Information: Portable Electronic Device

Aspen Dental Care P.C.
State: Colorado
Approx. # of Individuals Affected: 2,500
Date of Breach: 10/04/09
Type of Breach: Theft
Location of Breached Information: Other

None of these breaches had been reported in the media, to my knowledge, so this is the first we are learning of these incidents. Unfortunately, because of the type of summary HHS/OCR has chosen to provide, we do not know if any SSN or financial information were also involved in the breaches.

The second breach above highlights an issue I’ve raised on this blog before: private practitioners’ names are being shielded. Here you have a practitioner who has a device with unsecured protected health information on 21,000 patients stolen, and we are not told who that is. If you lived in San Antonio, wouldn’t you want to know whether a doctor you were considering using had left PHI unsecured?

As reported previously, OCR told me that they had no choice but to shield names because of the Privacy Act of 1974, but that still seems to clash with the clear intent of Congress. A private practitioner is a business entity, regardless of whether they use their SSN or a Tax ID and regardless of whether they incorporate or not. They should have the same exposure and accountability as all other HIPAA/HITECH-covered entities in this regard.

I put in a call to a member of Congress yesterday about this issue and will follow up.

About the author: Dissent