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Risk

4/27/2010
05:28 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary
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Medical Records Keep Getting Dumped

Why were possibly thousands of private patient records found dumped outside the closed offices of a physical therapy center?

Why were possibly thousands of private patient records found dumped outside the closed offices of a physical therapy center?According to the story Patient files found dumped in Monticello officials in Monticello NY found a pile of files containing Social Security numbers and private patient information out in the open.

The story says that a clerk working in a nearby retail store noticed that a stack of 15 boxes remained outside the building for more than a week.

Apparently the offices of DRC Physical Therapy Plus were shut down, as an eviction notice was on the front door dated April 8.

I guess in all of the hullabaloo, no one thought to secure the patient data, or dispose of it properly.

Unfortunately, this sort of thing happens way too often. Here's a story from Chattanooga, TN on May 16 of last year detailing "Thousands" Of Medical Records Discovered In Recycling Bin:

Anyone who peered inside the mixed paper bin at the Dupont Recycling Center this afternoon got an eyeful. Files, in plain sight, which authorities say contained sensitive medical and identity information.

"Upon finding those, they discovered it wasn't a small amount. it was a large amount that we had to notify hutcheson medical center and one other medical facility," says Investigator William Puckett with the Chattanooga Police Department.

Investigators thought they could fit all of the files into a single car, but there was just too many files for that to be possible.

There is also this story from Florida earlier this year, Medical files in Port St. Lucie trash bin could have led to ID fraud, police say:

Police determined the files, which contained information including patient names, Social Security numbers, phone numbers and addresses, had been discarded from University Medical Clinics in the 1800 block of Southeast Port St. Lucie Boulevard, said Officer Tom Nichols, police spokesman.

A man identified by Nichols as a high ranking official with the company indicated an employee had thrown the files way.

"A garbage bag full of medical records is not an oversight," Nichols said.

With all of the attention toward securing patient data during the past couple of years, it's a shame to see health care providers aren't doing more to protect their patients' interests. But while it's a shame, it's certainly no surprise. Consider this from a story, Medical Data At Risk, penned by Nicole Lewis earlier this month:

A new study from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society reports that since January 2008, more than 110 healthcare organizations have reported the loss of sensitive patient data affecting over 5,306,000 individuals.

The findings, published in the 2010 HIMSS Analytics Report: Security of Patient Data, show that the vast majority of the 250 healthcare IT and security professionals surveyed have policies, procedures and technology in place at their organizations to prevent data theft. But changes made to protect medical records haven't curbed the number of reported breaches, which increased six percent since 2008.

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