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News of the Day ... In Perspective

01/31/2006

Electronic medical records a bonanza for thieves

In the largest security breach in Oregon to date, the records of 365,000 patients who receive home services from Providence Health Systems were stolen. The thief broke into an employee’s car parked at his home.

The records include names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and intimate health data, stored on computer disks and digital tape. Employees routinely take records home to provide a backup.

In addition to patients in Oregon and Washington, 1,500 employees had personal information on the stolen media.

Personal data could be used for identity theft, or medical data to deny benefits or employment or to humiliate or otherwise harm patients.

It is not clear whether Providence had violated any law (Oregonian 1/26/06).

Last month, two laptop computers were stolen from an off-campus University of Washington Medical Center office. These contained password-protected personal data, though not medical data, on 1,600 patients of the UW Travel Medicine Service (Post-Intelligencer 1/24/06).

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