TX: Laptop with Houston Methodist Hospital patient info stolen

Mike Glenn reports:

Sensitive information for about 1,300 transplant patients is missing after a laptop and files were reported stolen, officials with Houston Methodist Hospital said Friday.

The encrypted laptop and files were taken Thursday. They held personal information, including names, Social Security numbers and birth dates.

Read more on The Houson Chronicle. KHOU also covers the incident.There is no statement on the hospital’s web site as of the time of this posting, but the statement sent to PHIprivacy.net says:

We have learned that an encrypted laptop and some paper files containing personal information on 1,300 transplant patients at Houston Methodist Hospital were stolen yesterday. That information included names, social security numbers, dates of birth and some medical information for transplant patients. We sincerely apologize for this incident and we are doing everything we can to protect our patients’ private information. After we were notified of the theft, we immediately contacted the Houston Police Department and we are performing a comprehensive investigation. We are also reporting this matter to the Department of Health and Human Services in accordance with federal law.

We are in the process of contacting each patient and offering a one-year free subscription to an identity theft protection service and we encourage these patients to use the service as soon as possible.

At Methodist we take a patient’s right to privacy very seriously – we diligently handle and protect thousands of patient records every day and we have a variety of safeguards to protect patient information. We deeply regret this incident occurred and are taking additional measures to protect and assist our patients.

Patients who need assistance are welcome to call 713-441-1001.

Although the hospital provided a copy of their statement, they did not respond to repeated requests for answers to the following questions:

1. Where were the laptop and files when they were stolen? Were they on hospital premises or in an employee’s car or home or…?

2. Was the encryption NIST standard or not of sufficient level to provide safe harbor?

3. Is any employee being disciplined as a result of the breach?

4. What steps, specifically, is the hospital taking to prevent a future incident like this?

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