Privacy Breach at OHSU Affects More than 3,000 Patients | Healthcare Informatics Magazine | Health IT | Information Technology Skip to content Skip to navigation

Privacy Breach at OHSU Affects More than 3,000 Patients

July 30, 2013
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Information for 3,044 patients at the Portland-based Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) has been compromised after medical residents inappropriately stored the data on a cloud computing system, according to the institution’s announcement.

In May, an OHSU School of Medicine faculty member discovered residents, or physicians-in-training, in the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery were using internet-based services to maintain a spreadsheet of patients. Their intent was to provide each other up-to-date information about who was admitted to the hospital under the care of their division.

Although the internet-based service provider (Google Drive, Google Mail) is password-protected and has security measures and policies in place to protect information, it is not an OHSU business associate with a contractual agreement to use or store OHSU patient health information.

There is no evidence that the data was accessed or used by anyone who did not have a legitimate patient care need to view the information. OHSU has been unable to confirm with the internet service provider that OHSU health information has not been, and will not be, used for these purposes. Consequently, OHSU is notifying all affected patients, officials said.

Upon learning of the incident, an OHSU investigation led to the discovery of a similar practice in the Department of Urology and in Kidney Transplant Services. After weeks spent reconstructing the data, the privacy and security experts discovered 3,044 patients admitted to the hospital between Jan. 1, 2011, and July 3, 2013, were affected.

The data stored with the internet service provider included the patient’s name, medical record number, dates of service, age, provider’s name and diagnosis/prognosis. For 731 patients, the data also included an address. For 617 patients, neither the reason for hospital stay, or diagnosis, nor the patient’s prognosis, or projected outcome, was among the stored data. Social Security numbers, insurance information, credit card information, bank information, phone numbers, or dates of birth were not among the stored information, according to the university.

 “We do not believe this incident will result in identity theft or financial harm; however, in the interest of patient security and transparency and our obligation to report unauthorized access to personal health information to federal agencies, we are contacting all affected patients. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience or worry this may cause our patients or their families,” John Rasmussen, OHSU’s chief information security officer, said in a statement.

About a year ago at OHSU, a USB drive containing data for more than 14,000 patients, 200 employees, and specific patient information for 702 pediatric patients was stolen from the house of a university employee.

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