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  • Patient information at risk following laptop theft

    August 9, 2012

    The string of data loss incidents afflicting healthcare organizations continues as a laptop containing patient information has been stolen from the Stanford University Medical Center. However, unlike many of the other recent potential leaks, there is reason to believe that this incident will not result in exposed information, thanks to improved document security practices.

    The laptop was stolen from a Stanford faculty member's locked office on either July 15 or 16. The machine contained data for approximately 2,500 patients. While no complete medical records were stored on the computer, files containing patient names, medical record numbers, treatment history, dates of birth and, in certain instances, Social Security numbers were likely present on the device.

    Notably, it was recently uncovered that Stanford Medical Center experienced another data breach less than a year ago, as 20,000 patients' records were inadvertently shared with a billing contractor and marketing vendor.

    However, there is evidence to suggest the institution's document security practices have improved in that time. The stolen laptop was password protected and included software that activates when the device connects to the internet, which has not occurred.

    The organization has contacted affected individuals as a precaution.