Healthcare Information Security

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Cottage Health System alerts 32,755 patients of data breach

By Patrick Ouellette

- Cottage Health System of California recently notified 32,755 patients via mail that their data may have been inadvertently exposed on Google after a third-party vendor removed electronic security protections from one of its servers.

According to noozhawk.com, patients treated at Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital, Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Hospital and Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital between Sept. 29, 2009, and Dec. 2, 2013 may have been affected by the breach. Compromised data included patient names, addresses, dates of birth and very limited protected health information for some patients related to diagnosis, lab results and procedures performed. The file did not include any Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, health insurance numbers, bank account numbers or any other financial information.

The Cottage Health announcement stated that it quickly removed the server from service and conducted a review of all servers to ensure that appropriate security measures are in place. To avoid reoccurrence, it’s conducting a security protocol audit and implementing additional measures. The organization has offered affected patients a toll-free phone number and identity management services through ID Experts.

“We deeply regret this incident. Cottage takes its obligation to protect health information very seriously and is taking aggressive steps to safeguard against this type of incident in the future,” said Steve Fellows, executive vice president, chief operating officer and chief compliance officer at Cottage, according to the statement. “We want to assure our patients that we are doing a thorough review and have systems in place to address their concerns. We understand that the security vulnerability by our vendor was unintentional and we have no reason to suspect that the limited data exposed might be misused.”

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