Pathology Lab Patients’ PHI Exposed Following Theft of Unencrypted Laptop

A Clinical Pathology Laboratories Southeast, Inc., (CPLSE) employee’s unencrypted work laptop computer has been stolen, exposing the protected health information of targeted patients and their payment guarantors.

Swift action was taken by CPLSE to stop the laptop from being used to connect to its network and the theft was made knocwn to law enforcement agencies; however, it may be the case that the protected health information saved on the laptop could have been viewed by unauthorized people.

An internal review was conducted to determine the types of data stored on the device which showed that the following PHI elements were potentially exposed: Names, addresses, driver’s license details, Social Security numbers, government ID information, medical record numbers, and medical treatment history.

Patients have now been alerted of the breach and advised of the steps they can take to safeguard themselves against improper use of their data. Free credit monitoring and identity theft protection services have been provided to affected people.

Measure have also been employed to stop similar incidents from happening in the future, which include retraining staff on data security, updating required policies and procedures, and using encryption technology on portable electronic devices used to save ePHI.

The laptop was taken on September 20, 2017 and the substitute breach notice published on the CPLSE website on March 21, 2018. It is not obvious why it took six months for the incident to be reported. HIPAA regulations state that notifications should be issued within 60 days of the discovery of a breach.

The incident has yet to be published on the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) Breach Portal. The number of people affected has not yet been stated.