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Mass. hospitals report possible missing data

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Aug. 9, 2010

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South Shore Hospital in South Weymouth, Mass., said on July 19 that the personal information of about 800,000 individuals could be missing after a third-party data management company lost back-up computer files that were meant to be destroyed.

Included in the files is information on South Shore patients as well as employees, physicians, volunteers, donors and other business partners of the hospital that had business or a relationship with South Shore sometime between Jan. 1, 1996, and Jan. 6, 2010. Personal information could include names, addresses, phone numbers, birth dates, Social Security numbers, medical record numbers, health plan information and medical information, including diagnosis and treatments.

The files were shipped off for destruction on Feb. 26. The hospital never received certificates of destruction, and when the third-party vendor was pressed for an explanation, it informed South Shore on June 17 that only a portion of the files had been received, the hospital said.

The hospital notified the Massachusetts attorney general's office, the Massachusetts Dept. of Public Health, and the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. An investigation into the matter is ongoing as officials work to identify whose information may have been stored on the missing back-up files. The files were encrypted, and there is no evidence the information has been accessed, the hospital said.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2010/08/09/bibf0809.htm.

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