Patient Privacy Breach at Nemours Follows Florida Hospital Information Leak

After a patient privacy breach at Florida Hospital a few weeks ago, another patient records scare has hit Florida – this time at Nemours.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, information belonging to Central Florida patients of Nemours Children’s Health System has gone missing.

Computer back-up tapes containing old patient billing information have disappeared from the Wilmington, Del., office of Nemours. These tapes were not password protected and stored in a locked cabinet. Company officials believe the cabinet may have been removed when the office was  remodeled in August.

Stored in the missing tapes are patient names, addresses, dates of birth, social security numbers, insurance information, medical diagnoses and treatment codes, as well as bank account information. If stolen, this information could result in identity theft.

The information of more than 1 million patients treated from 1994 to 2004 by a Nemours physician or at a Nemours facility in Florida, Delaware or Pennsylvania was contained on the missing tapes. Approximately 50% of the affected patients are from Florida.

Nemours has sent letters to patients whose information may have been compromised and is offering these patients a year of free credit monitoring and identity-theft protection.

Although Nemours is taking appropriate steps in response to this situation, a major  patient privacy breach should not be happening so frequently. This is the second major privacy breach in the last few weeks in Florida, which instills little confidence in patients in the Florida health care system. Health care providers need to be proactive in maintaining patient confidentiality. Patients trust health care providers with the most personal and sensitive details and should have reassurance that unauthorized personnel will never see this information. There should never be any reason that this information gets leaked.

A privacy breach not only impacts patients, but also health care professionals (physicians, nurses, pharmacists, administrators, etc.) who come under attack. When blame is shifted around a health care facility, the work environment may become tense and stressful, especially for those who have access to patient records.

For more information about patient privacy breaches, see this article on confidential medical records.