Patients of MidMichigan Medical Center (MMC) in Alpena have been warned of a potential breach of their health data.
On November 18, a MMC cardiologist took patient files from the Alpena cardiology office without permission. The files were taken to the cardiologist’s can in a storage container, but the container had not been safely locked.
Near a parking lot near 12th Avenue/Chisholm Street, the container was dropped, throwing the contents on the ground. The documents were blown by the wind and started flying around the street.
Some of the documents were rescued up by members of the public, who advised the hospital that documents containing sensitive patient information were blowing around the street where they were dropped. The hospital got in touch with law enforcement to provide assistance collecting the information.
Dr. Richard Bates, vice president of medical affairs at MMC released a statement saying all of the paperwork is thought to have been retrieved, so the danger to patients is thought to be low. However, since it cannot be confirmed that all documents were recovered, patients have been alerted of the potential HIPAA violation.
The reasons why the cardiologist, Dr. Christopher Walls, removed the records from the office are unknown. However, taking documents containing patient information is a breach of hospital policies, and due to that violation, Dr. Walls no longer works at MMC.
Almost 1,900 patients have been made aware of the potential breach, which may have included names along with addresses, Social Security details, and clinical data. As a precautionary action, affected patients have been offered free identity theft protection services.
Bates said: “We take matters related to the security of our patients’ personal information very seriously because it is our responsibility to protect their privacy. We have rigorous processes and procedures in place to detect breaches and to protect patients’ rights”.