Abbie Bennett reports:
UNC Health Care is alerting its prenatal patients that their confidential medical information may have been shared with their home county, including Social Security numbers, sexually-transmitted disease information and more.
Women seen for prenatal appointments at two UNC Health Care obstetric clinics between 2014 and 2017 may have filled out a form that was sent to the health department in their county by mistake, according to a news release from UNC Health Care.
Read more on The News & Observer.
The following is UNC Health Care’s notice:
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – UNC Health Care has begun notifying patients of a potential breach of information where personal data provided by prenatal patients at two UNC Health Care obstetric clinics were mistakenly transmitted to local county health departments.
On March 20, 2017, the Chief Privacy Officer of the University of North Carolina Health Care System sent letters to 1,300 patients who are believed to have completed Pregnancy Home Risk Screening Forms at their prenatal appointments between April 2014 and February 2017. Only patients seen at the Women’s Clinic at N.C. Women’s Hospital and UNC Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Rex during this time may have been affected.
Pregnancy Home Risk Screening Forms were used to collect personal information from Medicaid-eligible prenatal patients and were shared with patients’ local health departments in order to connect them with valuable support services. The letter states that a review of the obstetric clinic practices performed by the Privacy Office revealed that Pregnancy Home Risk Screening Forms completed by women who were not eligible for Medicaid may have mistakenly been sent to the county health department where they live.
“If you completed a Pregnancy Home Risk Screening Form, it may have included information about you, such as demographic information (like your name and address), your race and ethnicity, your Social Security Number, information about your physical and mental health, sexually transmitted diseases, your HIV status, smoking, drug and alcohol use, and medical diagnosis information related to your pregnancy and any prior pregnancies,” the letter states.
UNC Health Care has also set up a call center dedicated specifically to this issue for patients who have questions or would like to discuss the matter further. The toll-free number is 1-800-596-8362, and personnel will be able to speak with patients Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The letter also verifies that all county health departments which may have received these forms are subject to federal and state privacy laws requiring that appropriate technical, administrative and physical safeguards be in place to protect medical information in all forms (paper and electronic) in their possession. In addition, the obstetric clinics have revised their process and procedure for patients completing the Pregnancy Home Risk Screening Form to ensure that only forms completed by Medicaid patients are sent to county health departments. All appropriate personnel have been trained on this new process.
UNC Health Care is working with all county health departments involved to request that paper forms for women not covered by Medicaid in their possession be sent back to the clinic. UNC Health Care has also requested that the county health departments purge electronic information about non-Medicaid patients from their electronic information systems.
UNC Health Care is committed to providing its patients with superior health care services and takes very seriously its obligation to protect the privacy of patients’ medical information. While UNC Health Care does not believe that any of the patients will be at financial risk as a result of the release any of this information to county health departments, UNC Health Care included in the letters a number of options available to patients for monitoring and reviewing their credit reports and has offered fraud resolution services for any patient who suffers from identity theft as a result of this incident, free of charge.