Cogent Healthcare, which manages group practices of hospitalists and intensivists working in hospitals across the nation, is notifying about 32,000 patients following a breach of protected health information by a contractor.

The breach affects 25 Cogent physician groups in at least 17 states. Cogent Healthcare learned that M2ComSys, a medical transcription company in India, was not storing protected health information on secure Internet site, and care notes were accessed. “The access to these notes through the site began May 5, 2013, and ended following Cogent Healthcare’s discovery of the lapse on June 24, 2013,” according to a public notice from Cogent. “It involved care notes of approximately 32,000 patients from across the county. We are generally unable to identify who accessed the care notes. In some cases, the care notes were indexed by Google.”

Compromised information includes patient and physician name, date of birth, diagnosis, treatment summary and medical history, and medical record number. Copies of patient records and Social Security numbers were not included in the accessed information.

Cogent is offering one year of paid identity protection services from Experian. The company also terminated the contract with M2ComSys and took possession of the hardware, confirmed with Google the removal of all PHI from its files, and initiated a security review of other Cogent vendors.

Genesis Health System, one of the affected provider organizations, believes the breach involves about 1,160 of its patients and worked to issue its own notifications before patients were contacted by Cogent, a company they may not recognize, according to a spokesperson. “We are disappointed with this lapse in securing protected health information. We’re reviewing our relationship with Cogent.”

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