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Medical center burglary puts 4 million patients’ PHI at risk

PHI of more than 4 million patients may have been jeopardized when four computers were stolen July 15 from an Advocate Medical Group administrative building in Park Ridge, Ill., according to an August 23 press release. [1]  Advocate Medical Group, a division of Advocate Health Care, has more than 1,000 physicians and 200 locations in the Chicago area. Advocate Health Care patients were not affected by the theft, Chicago Tribune reported. [2]

The computers contained names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and dates of birth for patients seen at Advocate Medical Group from 1990 through July 2013, Kelly Jo Golson, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Advocate Health Care, told the newspaper. The computers were password-protected, but not encrypted, said Golson. No medical records were stored on the computers and Golson does not believe they were stolen in an effort to obtain the patient data stored on them.

The medical group began sending letters to affected patients August 23 and will continue to do so through September 19, according to the newspaper. The letter was posted on www.patientnotice.org [3]. It states that Advocate will offer credit monitoring services to those who were affected by the burglary.

The medical group’s office did not have a security alarm, according to the newspaper. However, the letter stated that a physical security presence has since been added to the building and Advocate will evaluate and reinforce security protocols.

Advocate reported the breach to HHS, OCR, local police, and the Illinois attorney general, according to the press release.