Improper Disposal Incident at Smith’s Food & Drug Affects Almost 58,000 Patients

Salt Lake City, OH-based Smith’s Food & Drug has announced that the pharmacy records of around 58,000 patients have been disposed of in an improper manner.

The improper disposal incident was discovered by the grocery and drug store chain on August 29, 2019 and affected customers of its store at 4600 East Sunset Road in Henderson, NV.

12 boxes of files containing physical pharmacy records, including prescriptions, were disposed of by a former associate in an improper manner. The records were not shredded, pulped, burned, or pulverized to render them unreadable, indecipherable, and ensure they could not otherwise be reconstructed, as is required by HIPAA. The boxes of files were put in the store’s trash compactor along with regular trash.

Since the records are no longer accessible, it was not possible to determine which patients were impacted and the exact types of information that had been exposed. Smith’s Food & Drug has estimated the sensitive information of approximately 57,600 patients was likely contained in the pharmacy records. The types of HIPAA-covered information in the records likely included the full names of patients, along with an address, phone number, date of birth, gender, prescription number, drug name, and third-party payor information. According to a statement issued by Smith’s Food & Drug, the records were 11 or more years old.

While it is unlikely that the records were viewed or obtained by unauthorized individuals, since the records were not disposed of in a secure manner, unauthorized access cannot be ruled out. Smith’s Food & Drug has not received any reports to suggest any patient information has been misused but has advised customers to review their explanation of benefits statements from their health plans and to report any medical services listed that have not been received.

Smith’s Food & Drug is re-educating select associates on company policies and HIPAA Rules concerning the disposal of sensitive information and additional safeguards are being implemented to prevent similar incidents in the future.  Smith’s Food & Drug has confirmed that the associate responsible has been terminated.

Author: Steve Alder has many years of experience as a journalist, and comes from a background in market research. He is a specialist on legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA. Steve holds a B.Sc. from the University of Liverpool.