TRICARE, SAIC Report Loss Of Data On 4.9 Million

Loss of backup tapes puts personal data of military personnel at risk
TRICARE, a healthcare program that serves members of the military, and contractor SAIC this week disclosed the loss of magnetic storage media containing the personal information of some 4.9 million military clinic and hospital patients.

"The information was contained on backup tapes from an electronic health care record used in the military health system (MHS) to capture patient data from 1992 through September 7, 2011," the disclosure states. The data may include Social Security numbers, addresses and phone numbers as well as personal health data such as clinical notes, laboratory tests and prescriptions. The tapes did not contain any financial data, such as credit card or bank account information, TRICARE says.

TRICARE did not say exactly what format the tapes were in, or how they were lost. "The risk of harm to patients is judged to be low despite the data elements involved, since retrieving the data on the tapes would require knowledge of and access to specific hardware and software and knowledge of the system and data structure," the disclosure statement says. The incident is being investigated.

Both SAIC and TRICARE Management Activity (TMA) are reviewing current data protection security policies and procedures to prevent similar breaches in the future, the statement says.

The two firms said they waited two weeks to make the disclosure because they didn't want to interfere with the investigation. "The exact circumstance surrounding this data loss remain the subject of an ongoing investigation," the statement says. "We did not want to raise undue alarm in our beneficiaries and so wanted to determine the degree of risk this data loss represented before making notifications."

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