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Laptop with data on 28,000 home care patients stolen in Detroit

An ID access code and password were with it

By Linda Rosencrance
August 23, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - A laptop containing home care information on 28,000 patients has been stolen from the car of a nurse who works for Royal Oak, Mich.-based Beaumont Hospitals, according to a statement from the hospital.

The laptop was in the nurse's car, which was stolen in Detroit on Aug. 5 after the nurse had finished seeing patients. The vehicle was later recovered, but the laptop was missing. The computer contained personal and health information of Home Care patients who had received care over the previous three years, the hospital said.

The Home Care staff uses laptops to document patient care; The data on the stolen laptop -- a Dell Latitude model -- includes patient names, addresses, birth dates, medical insurance information, Social Security numbers and personal health information relating to their home care services. The computer does not include information on services received at the Beaumont Hospitals or other Beaumont outpatient services, the hospital said.

There is no evidence that anyone's personal information has been accessed or misused, the statement said, nor is there any no evidence that the computer was stolen for its data.

While Home Care laptops are encrypted and password protected, the nurse's ID access code and password were with the stolen computer, meaning personal information may be at risk of exposure. The nurse was a new employee still completing orientation.

"We have been working with the Detroit police in investigating the theft and attempting to recover the laptop," said Chris Hengstebeck, director of security for Beaumont Hospitals. "We have communicated the situation to all Home Care patients through a letter and tested and strengthened our computer security systems and processes. We deeply regret that the personal information of our Home Care patients may be at risk for exposure. We are taking aggressive measures to protect their personal and health information and to lessen the impact of the computer theft on them."

Beaumont said its IT department is reviewing and enhancing computer security systems with its software vendor. The hospital said it has also reinforced laptop security procedures with its Home Care staff.

Beaumont Home Care has arranged for affected patients to enroll in a credit reporting service, at the hospital's expense, for one year.

A reward for the recovery of the laptop is also being offered.

Read more about Security in Computerworld's Security Topic Center.

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