Hospital reports a possible data loss

Doctor misplaced drive that had held patient records

By Liz Kowalczyk
Globe Staff / August 6, 2011

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A doctor who works at Brigham and Women’s and Faulkner hospitals lost an external hard drive in June, and the computer device may have contained medical information for 638 patients, the hospitals said yesterday.

The Brigham has sent letters to those patients describing the problem. Patients who have questions can call toll-free at 877-694-3367.

Information related to inpatient hospital stays from July 10, 2009, to Jan. 28, 2011, may have been on the device, including patient names, medical record numbers, dates of admission, medications, and information about diagnosis and treatment. The device did not contain Social Security numbers, insurance numbers, or other financial account information.

The doctor lost the hard drive June 21 while traveling in Mexico. But hospital officials said the physician had previously taken steps to delete patient information from the device, so the chances of information remaining on it are low. The Brigham would not identify the physician.

The hospital “takes the privacy and security of our patients’ information very seriously,’’ Sue Schade, chief information officer, said in a statement. “We are taking steps to reduce the risk of such events occurring in the future, including addressing the incident specifically with those involved, reviewing and augmenting our policies and procedures, and enhancing our training regarding technical safeguards required on external hard drives that may contain sensitive data, as well as limiting the amount of data stored on such devices.’’

She said the hospital has no knowledge anyone has used data on the device. However, the hospital is offering patients identity protection services.

“We apologize for any inconvenience and deeply regret any concern this situation may cause our patients,’’ Schade said.

Liz Kowalczyk can be reached at