In what is turning into a trend, the Palm Beach County Health Department is dealing with another health data breach. A former employee was arrested Tuesday after allegedly stealing 2,800 patients’ protected health information (PHI).
The former employee, according to the Palm Beach Post, is Salita St. Simon, who has been fired from her senior clerk position, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office reports that she is being charged with identity theft. Compromised patient data includes names and Social Security numbers from the Palm Beach County Health Department computer system, which St. Simon allegedly gave to accomplices for tax fraud purposes. St. Simon faces up to five years in prison if convicted.
This breach should be concerning to patients because this isn’t the first time this has happen. PHIPrivacy.net explains that this department has had its issues with patient data privacy since 2005:
- In 2005, 6,500 HIV positive patients had their names on a confidential list that was accidentally sent in an email to 800 people
- In 2005, 15 pages from a confidential list of HIV-positive people was lost or stolen from an analyst’s desk. This incident appeared to be independent of the breach reported two months previously
- In 2007, confidential test results of patients who tested positive for various communicable diseases were found in file cabinet being sold at surplus auction
- In 2012, a system upgrade left names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and other information exposed on the Internet for two months
- In 2012, they learned – from others – that hundreds of clients’ names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers had been stolen by a senior clerk in the medical records department; 111 became victims of tax refund fraud
The Palm Beach County Health Department released a patient notice regarding the breach:
The Palm Beach County Health Department is issuing a public notice that some patients may have had confidential information contained in their records disclosed to an unauthorized source. The breach occurred when an employee took client lists containing names, dates of birth, and social security numbers. It appears that patients born in the years 1991 through 1996 were targeted. Medical information, bank accounts, credit card or other information was not included.