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Former Employee Accused of Stealing PHI of up to 160,000 Med Center Health Patients

The Kentucky-based 6-hospital health system Med Center Health has reported a data breach affecting approximately 160,000 patients. Med Center Health believes a former employee may have stolen patients’ protected health information (PHI) prior to leaving employment.

The former employee has been accused of stealing PHI including names, addresses, health insurance information, Social Security numbers, procedure codes and billing information. Medical records were not compromised at any point.

The FBI has been notified and is also investigating along with other federal agencies. Med Center health is in the process of notifying patients of the breach, although the process is expected to take a couple of weeks due to the number of individuals that have been impacted.

While the breach has only recently been announced, the data theft incidents date back to 2014 and 2015. The former employee is understood to have taken an encrypted CD and encrypted portable storage device in August 2014 and February 2015. There was no legitimate work reason for ePHI to have been taken, although on both occasions the former employee claimed the data were needed for word-related duties.

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The Bowling Green Daily News suggests Med Center Health discovered the breach several months ago, although notifications were delayed. A spokesperson for Med Center Health told Bowling Green Daily News “Med Center Health informed patients as expeditiously as possible. It is important to understand that the information leading Med Center Health to report the incident pursuant to HIPAA developed over time during an intensive internal investigation.”

Patients affected by the breach had received medical services at one of six Med Center Health facilities between 2011 and 2014: Cal Turner Rehab and Specialty Care, Medical Center EMS, the Commonwealth Regional Specialty Hospital, the Medical Center at Bowling Green, the Medical Center at Franklin and the Medical Center at Scottsville.

Patients impacted by the breach have been offered 12 months of credit monitoring and identity theft protection services without charge. Med Center Health has not uncovered any evidence to suggest that any of the stolen information was used to commit fraud, although the possibility cannot be ruled out.

Author: Steve Alder is the editor-in-chief of HIPAA Journal. Steve is responsible for editorial policy regarding the topics covered on HIPAA Journal. He is a specialist on healthcare industry legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA and other related legal topics. Steve has developed a deep understanding of regulatory issues surrounding the use of information technology in the healthcare industry and has written hundreds of articles on HIPAA-related topics.