6,450 patients of Prairie Fields Family Medicine based in Fremont, NE are being made aware that their protected health information may have been compromised after it was included in an unencrypted spreadsheet that was sent to the incorrect email recipient.
The email was transmitted on October 1, 2018, and the mistake was discovered the same day. Prairie Fields Family Medicine has made a number of attempts to get in touch the owner of the email account to ensure the spreadsheet is securely erased from their account. However their attempts have been, so far, unsuccessful.
As they have, as of yet, not received a reply from the recipient, Prairie Fields Family Medicine is of the opinion that the email account is no longer in use. However, until they can confirm this the possibility remains that the spreadsheet has been opened and patient information has been accessed.
The spreadsheet did not include any financial data or health information normally included in medical records. The breach was restricted to patients’ first and last names, birth date, telephone number, native language spoken, gender, race, and, for certain patients, primary and secondary health insurer idata, including providers’ names and account numbers.
All impacted patients have been made aware of the breach by mail and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has been advised of the incident.
Prairie Fields Family Medicine has not received any complaints to indicate any patient health information has been accessed or misused, but since insurance information may have been compromised, impacted patients have been warned to review their explanation of benefits statements closely for suspicious activity.
The privacy breach has led to Prairie Fields Family Medicine to put extra security measures in place to stop additional impermissible disclosures of patients’ protected health data.