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Data Theft from Health Care Facilities - What's Up with That?


May 2006: Laptopgate - a VA employee took his laptop containing personal data on over 26 million veterans, active duty personnel and their spouses, home with him. The laptop was subsequently stolen by 3 teenagers and later recovered by police.
August 2006: 10 computers were stolen from HCA offices, containing the personal information of thousands of patients, providers and employees for Medicare and Medicaid.
October 2006: A laptop containing patient data from 14,000 households was stolen from Allina Hospitals and Clinics in Minneapolis.
February 2007: A laptop containing data on 7800 patients was stolen from Seton Family of Hospitals in Texas. In a separate incident, thieves stole backup tapes from Wellpoint BC/BS containing data for 196,000 customers.
July 2007: A computer containing patient information in a tumor registry database was stolen from Johns Hopkins Hospital. The computer was mysteriously returned through an attorney in September.
September 2007: Two computers containing data on thousands of patients was stolen from McKesson Health Services company office.
February 2008: The NIH lost records on 3,000 people involved in a cardiac MRI study when a laptop computer was stolen. One of the people affected was Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), founder of the Congressional Privacy Caucus.
March 2008: UCLA employees and doctors are disciplined for breaching the security of a certain celebrity's medical records.
April 2008: Data files of 2.1 million patients of the University of Miami health facilities were stolen from a storage facility.

In all of these incidents, security authorities insist that the data was not compromised, the thieves were after the hardware not the data, the data was encrypted and offer many other "reassurances". The VA has pledged to set new standards for the security of personal data, but data breaches continue to rise. With the push for EMRs, we had better make sure security issues - not just online security - but back to the basics like secure laptops (how hard is that?) - is one of the top priorities.

Thank you cdchanes for use of photo medical history.
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