The thief probably thought he was just stealing a laptop. Instead, the private information of about 16,000 Fairview and North Memorial hospital patients is in someone's hands, and the best the hospitals can do now is apologize.
Hospital officials acknowledged the missing data yesterday, saying the laptop that had been stolen contained names, addresses, medical information and social security numbers of patients. Some 14,000 Fairview patients and 2,800 North Memorial patients are thought to be affected, though North Memorial's patients' social security numbers weren't included.
Yesterday was, of course, the perfect time to confirm the theft, given that it happened... July 25. It's bad enough knowing that your private information is out there -- wouldn't you want to just give it a couple months first, and see what happens?
The hospitals say the theft victim was not an employee of theirs, but rather an employee of Accretive Health, a subcontractor that assists on patient services. How's this for service? At the moment, the hospitals don't have an answer for why this person had people's private information on a personal laptop.
The laptop was taken out of a locked car in a restaurant parking lot, the Star Tribune reports, and there was a four day gap before Fairview learned about it. That still leaves about two months of lag time before Fairview, you know, mentioned it to anyone else, which the hospital explains by saying it needed to determine exactly which patients had been affected before announcing the lost data.
The good news is that, as of yet, it doesn't seem like anyone is taking advantage of their newly-found information, at least not through the hospital.
The bad news is that this is Fairview's second security failure this year: In April, a box with information about 1,200 patients went missing, and stayed missing.
In the future, Fairview will spare you the trouble of finding or stealing patient information, and will simply allow everyone to just wander behind the counter and pull patient files.