Health Information Management

California computer theft compromises data of nearly 3,000 patients

HIM-HIPAA Insider, August 11, 2014

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The theft of three desktop computers at Bay Area Pain Medical Associates in Sausalito, California, may have exposed information about 2,780 patients, according to a sample notification letter released by the medical group.

Medical records stored on the desktop computers were encrypted, but the medical center suspects that an Excel® spreadsheet containing patient names and dates of service may have been accessible. Thieves broke into Bay Area Pain Medical Associates May 19. The theft was discovered the following day, at which time the medical center notified law enforcement officials, according to the letter.
HHS frequently stresses the importance of encrypting devices. In April, HHS released a statement that emphasized the need for encryption, citing two OCR settlement agreements that totaled nearly $2 million as examples of the dangers posed by unencrypted devices in healthcare.
Although some Bay Area Pain Medical Associates patient names on the computers may have been accessed following the break-in, the medical group stated in its letter that encryption would prevent the unauthorized disclosure of other PHI stored on the devices, including Social Security numbers and dates of birth.
This article originally appeared on HCPro’s HIPAA Update blog. Stay up to date on all things HIPAA by signing up for e-mail updates from this blog.

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