TX: Austin Pulmonary Consultants notifies patients after new cleaners throw out records meant for shredding

It’s been a while since I’ve seen any reports of cleaning contractors accidentally disposing of patient records intended for shredding, but a recent report by Austin Pulmonary Consultants may be a useful reminder that all new cleaning vendors or contractors need to ensure their staff knows what is for disposal and what is for shredding. In this case, 889 patients had data that were improperly discarded:

November 7, 2016 –We have become aware of a data security incident that may have involved the personal and protected health information of our patients and their payment guarantors. On September 8, 2016, we discovered that at the recently opened south office, located at 5920 W. William Cannon, Building 1, Suite 150 in Austin, Texas, an outside vendor providing cleaning services improperly disposed of documents designated for shredding. The records may include patient’s names, addresses, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, and medical information. In addition, the impacted records may also include personal information regarding patients’ payment guarantors, including guarantors’ names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and medical payment information.

Notification letters mailed on November 7, 2016, include information about the incident and steps that potentially impacted individuals can take to monitor and protect their personal information. We have also established a toll-free call center to answer questions about the incident and address other related concerns. In addition, we have taken immediate steps to prevent a similar event from occurring in the future, including working closely with the vendor to retrain its staff regarding proper disposal methods and implementing additional security measures pertaining to the disposal of records.

There is no indication of any unauthorized use of the information, and we do not anticipate any future disclosure or misuse of the information. We take the privacy and security of our patients’ records very seriously, deeply regret these circumstances, and are committed to keeping our patients informed.

Patients who may have been affected by this incident may call 1-844-418-6622, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Central Time, with any questions or concerns.

The Physicians and Staff of Austin Pulmonary Consultants

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