Dozens of Del. Patients Impacted by Stolen Hospital Report - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Reported by Michael Lopardi

Dozens of Del. Patients Impacted by Stolen Hospital Report

(Photo: WBOC) (Photo: WBOC)

LEWES, Del. - Beebe Medical Center said it will offer free credit monitoring to dozens of patients whose personal information was included on a financial document reported stolen in January.

The report was stolen from an employee's vehicle in Florida and included the names and Medicare numbers, same as Social Security numbers, of 113 patients, Vice President for Corporate Affairs Wallace Hudson said. The hospital sent letters to notify affected patients and, where appropriate, next of kin.
The employee removed the financial report from the hospital to work on it at home, Hudson explained. A briefcase holding the report was somehow packed into the family's vehicle for a vacation. The briefcase was stolen on Jan. 1 in Orange County, Fla., and has yet to be recovered, the hospital said.
Hudson said the employee, who works in the patient financial services department, will not be disciplined. At the time of the incident, the hospital did not have a policy regulating the removal of patient information.
"She did not release the information. It was stolen from her," Hudson said. "So we could not hold her accountable under HIPAA for unlawful release of information because she didn't do it. It was stolen."
HIPAA, or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, regulates privacy of a patient's health information. 
The employee alerted police in Florida and Beebe shortly after the theft, Hudson said. Police were unable to locate the briefcase.
The stolen report did not reveal clinical information about patients, Hudson said. The report included information about some Medicare patients who visited Beebe between 2005 and 2009, Hudson said.
The hospital said it has not received reports of stolen identities or problems because of the incident. Beebe is offering affected patients one year of free credit monitoring. About 35 of the patients on the report have since died, Hudson said.
Beebe is now working to avoid a repeat.
"We are developing a policy now that says HIPAA protected information cannot be taken out of the hospital," Hudson said.
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