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Data Breach at UTHealth Affects Nearly 600 Patients

August 29, 2013
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Approximately 600 patients at UT Physicians, the medical group practice of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) Medical School, have been notified that some of their health information has been compromised after an unencrypted laptop was discovered missing on Aug. 2 from a locked closet in a UT Physicians orthopedic clinic.

UT Physicians does not have any reason to believe that the information has been accessed or used by any unauthorized individual, but as a precaution, began mailing letters to the 596 patients whose information was stored on the laptop.

The specialized laptop attached to an electromyography machine included hand and arm image data from February 2010 to July 13. Patient information stored on the computer included names, birth dates and medical record numbers. There were no addresses, social security numbers, or insurance or other financial information stored on the laptop. The laptop was password protected, but did not have encryption technology to scramble data in a way that makes it more difficult for unauthorized users to retrieve information from the device, UTHealth officials said.

Encryption of all laptops has been the policy at UT Physicians and UTHealth for the last two years. To date, all known laptops—more than 5,000—have been encrypted. The medical group and UTHealth have taken steps to ensure that the missing laptop in the orthopedic clinic is an isolated incident, officials said.

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