Emory Healthcare Data Breach Impacts 24,000 Patients

A former employee of Emory Healthcare (EHC) has been found to have obtained the protected health information of 24,000 EHC patients and shared the data to a Microsoft Office 365 OneDrive account, from where it could possibly be downloaded by other people.

The former staff member was a physician at Emory Healthcare, who is now employed by the University of Arizona (UA) College of Medicine. EHC says patient details was taken without permission and without its knowledge. EHC was warned about the incident by the University of Arizona, and received a list of affected people on October 18, 2017.

The OneDrive account could only be accessed by the physician in question, other former EHC physicians now employed at UA, UA staff who reviewed the incident, and possibly a limited number of other UA employees who had a specific type of UA email account. PHI was not shared on the Internet and no other people are believed to have been able to view the details.

UA contracted a third-party forensic team to conduct an investigation, although no proof was uncovered to suggest patient information was shared or used in any way. UA has stated that all EHC patient details has been permanently and securely removed from the account and its systems.

EHC says no Social Security details, financial details, addresses, phone numbers, driver’s license information, or credit card information was shared. The data shared to the account was restricted to names, dates of service at EHC, provider names, medical record details, diagnoses, treatment information, treatment centers, and in some cases, dates of birth. The data was largely limited to patients who had received radiology services at EHC from 2004-14.

EHC is now alerting patients by post that their protected health information has been shared, and potentially shared. EHC has not been made aware of anything to suggest any of the information has been misused; however, as a precautionary step, patients have been told to remain cautious and to take measures to protect themselves against potential fraudulent use of their data.

EHC is now taking measures to avoid incidents such as this from happening in the future, including improving its patient care team education programs and reviewing and improving security systems.

The breach report filed to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights shows 24,000 patients have been affected by the violation.