Following the August 22 discovery of protected health information on a public Web site, Stanford University Hospital in Palo Alto, Calif., has sent notification letters to approximately 20,000 patients.

Emergency room patient names, diagnosis codes and billing charges, hospital account and medical record numbers, and admission/discharge dates were on the "Student of Fortune" website where students for a fee receive help with homework, the San Jose Mercury News reports. The information was in a spreadsheet attached to a file and covered patients seen from March 1, 2009 to August 31, 2009.

The spreadsheet, from a subcontractor of Multi-Specialty Collection Services, a Los Angeles billing contractor, wound up being posted to the Web site Sept. 9, 2010, the hospital later learned. The spreadsheet was an attachment to a question about how to convert the data into a bar graph.

The hospital is offering identity protection services and has suspended its business with the contractor. The hospital did not respond to a request for additional comment.


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