MINNEAPOLIS - Personal information submitted by nearly 14,000 patients is in jeopardy after the theft of a laptop computer from Fairview Health Services.
The health system is sending out letters to those patients after the laptop was stolen from a locked car in the parking lot of a Minneapolis restaurant on July 25.
"This loss of sensitive patient information is disappointing and unacceptable," said Lois Dahl, Fairview director of privacy. "We do believe the overall risk of anybody accessing the data is low."
The laptop belonged to an employee of Accretive Health, a healthcare services firm providing business and patient care coordination services for Fairview.
The computer held files containing a combination of patient names, addresses, dates of birth, account balances, dates of services, some diagnostic information and social security numbers.
Fairview insists it did not contain credit card numbers or other patient financial information.
So far there has been no evidence that any patient information has been accessed or misused as a result of this incident.
Both Fairview and Accretive Health have policies and procedures that require all laptops to be fully encrypted, but during its investigation Accretive Health discovered that due to human error, this particular laptop was password protected, but not encrypted.
That means the files could be at increased risk of being accessed.
Accretive Health says it has learned from the mistake and has invested in additional technology to ensure this does not happen again. Fairview's IT experts are working closely with Accretive in this effort.
Fairview is notifying affected individuals of this loss of personal data and offering free identity theft protection and fraud monitoring services. Accretive Health will pay for these services.
"Ultimately, we are responsible for the protection of our patients' personal and health information," said Mark Werner, M.D., chief clinical integration officer at Fairview. "We owe it to them and to our employees to do everything we can to learn from this incident and see that it doesn't happen again," he said.
In April, Fairview Health Services notified 1,200 patients that their health records were lost when the billing office moved to another Fairview building in Minneapolis.
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