Careless handling of paper medical documents has led to MidMichigan Medical Center notifying about 1,900 patients of a breach of protected health information.
Serving the middle parts of Michigan and affiliated with the University of Michigan, the five-hospital delivery system suffered the breach on November 18 when a physician inappropriately removed paper documents from a cardiology office and transported them in a storage container.
The container was not secured and dropped in a parking lot. Medical center staff and police retrieved as many documents as possible, but a possibility exists that not all of the contents were recovered. Affected patients are being offered identity theft protection.
“We believe that all of the records were retrieved, and the risk to patients is low; however, that cannot be fully validated,” says Richard Bates, MD, vice president of medical affairs at the medical center in Alpena. “As a result of the inappropriate removal of these records, the physician is no longer employed with the Medical Center.”
In its notification letter to patients, MidMichigan Medical Center-Alpena included considerable information on how patients could protect themselves. “While we believe that the risk that your information is compromised is low, we wanted to inform you of some simple steps you can take now or in the future to help protect yourself against identity theft,” the organization explained. “The first step involves placing a fraud alert on your credit file. A fraud alert tells creditors to contact you and verify your identity before they open any new accounts or change existing accounts. You can call any one of the three major credit bureaus. As soon as one credit bureau confirms your fraud alert, the others are notified to place fraud alerts. All three credit reports will be sent to you, free of charge, for your review.”
In addition to its hospitals and physician network, the delivery system includes home health and urgent care facilities, as well as federally qualified community health centers.
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