Pruitt Health Alerts Patients to Potential Privacy Breaches after Two Break-ins

PruittHealth, a provider of home health and hospice services in the southeast United States, has started notifying 1,437 patients of a potential breach of protected health information following two break-ins at its offices in South Carolina. In both cases, it would appear that the thieves were not interested in patient health information, although patients’ files could potentially have been viewed.

The first break-in occurred on March 2, 2016. Thieves smashed the glass in the front door and entered the PruittHealth Home Health – Low Country office. No electronic devices were stolen by the thieves and only petty cash was believed to have been taken. However, patient files were stored in the office and could potentially have been accessed.

On discovery of the break-in on March 3, PruittHealth staff alerted law enforcement and checked to determine whether any patient files had been accessed or stolen. The files did not appear to have been disturbed and no paper files appeared to have been removed by the thieves.

Patients have now been notified that if the files were accessed, their names, addresses, dates of birth, service dates, location of services, clinical information, and Social Security numbers could potentially have been viewed.

Just over a month later on April 11, 2016, a break-in occurred at the PruittHealth Hospice office in Beaufort. On this occasion the thieves broke into the filing cabinets used to store patient files. It would appear the thieves were not interested in patient health information as the files were undisturbed. The files contained the same types of protected health information as the PruittHealth Home Health incident. It is unclear whether the two incidents were related.

Patients are not believed to face an increased risk of identity theft or fraud as a result of the break-ins, but have been advised to take precautions such as obtaining credit reports from the credit monitoring bureaus and placing a credit freeze on their files.

Following on from the break-ins, PruittHealth has taken additional steps to secure its offices to prevent future break-ins.

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.