As an update to previous coverage on the Henry Ford Health System breach involving a stolen laptop containing unencrypted PHI:
1. The breach affected 3,700 patients according to the hospital’s notification to HHS under the breach notification requirement of HITECH.
2. The hospital posted a notice to its web site on Nov. 19:
Henry Ford Health System has notified patients who were affected by a breach of unsecured personal health information after learning that an employee’s laptop computer storing the information was stolen from an unlocked urology medical office.
While the laptop was password protected, the patient information stored on the computer could potentially be viewed on the computer.
As a result of the Sept. 24 theft, Henry Ford notified the affected patients in a letter mailed last week from Chief Privacy Officer Meredith Phillips. The letter explained what happened, what information was stored on the laptop, and what steps the health system is taking to prevent future breaches of patient information.
Under federal law, health care organizations are required to notify patients within 60 days of a breach of unsecured health information.
“The security of our patients’ health information is very important to us, and we sincerely apologize for what happened,” Phillips says. “This laptop did not have the proper security protections that we require for laptop computers storing patient information.”
The laptop contained patient information related to prostate services received between 1997 and 2008 and included some but not all of the following information: Patient name, medical record number, date of birth, mailing and e-mail addresses, telephone number, treatment and doctor visits. No Social Security numbers or health insurance identification numbers were stored on the laptop.
While the stolen laptop had elements of patient information, Phillips says, it did not contain the patient’s medical record or allow access into the patient’s medical record.
To address any patient questions or concerns, Henry Ford set up a toll-free telephone number – 1.888.313.1027 – that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Additionally, the health system offered the affected patients free credit monitoring for one year from Equifax to ensure their information is not used inappropriately.
After learning of the stolen laptop on Sept. 24, Henry Ford launched a thorough investigation to determine the identity of the affected patients and the nature of their information stored on the laptop, and ascertain whether proper security protections were installed.
To prevent future patient information breaches, Phillips says employees will be re-educated in the steps necessary to protect patient information stored on computers. She also says the process will be improved for how employees obtain a laptop computer for work purposes.