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Breach in Chicago Hospital, Six Laptops and Tablets Stolen

July 27, 2012
by Gabriel Perna
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Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Home Hospice offices were burglarized and six laptop and tablet computer devices were stolen, the Chicago-based hospital reported. According to Northwestern Memorial, it is doing an “internal investigation” to determine if any health information was compromised.

Information that may have been on the devices include patients’ personal demographics, including full name, address, date of birth and social security number; the patient’s medical treatment profile related to home hospice or former home health services, including diagnosis, acuity of symptoms, medications, treatment notes and advanced directives; and payor information, including the patient’s health insurance group, and policy numbers. The devices, according to Northwestern, were undergoing a software upgrade and standard laptop security controls were suspended, thus they personal health information was accessible.

Northwestern says it has sent letters to impacted patients or their families notifying them of the breach. It will provide victims a credit bureau monitoring service to catch irregularities that may signal identity theft.  It does not believe the personal information was targeted.

 This is just the latest in a string of health data breaches that have reportedly occurred across the country, in Boston, Houston, and elsewhere. Recently, the Obama administration has announced the launch of a public-private partnership aimed at fighting fraud in healthcare.

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