An unencrypted laptop computer reported missing from Riverside County Regional Medical Center in December might have contained the personal information of patients who received ophthalmology and dermatology services at the hospital between Jan. 26, 2012, and Nov. 26, 2014.
RCRMC Chief Compliance Officer Jan Remm said the hospital immediately notified law enforcement and began a thorough internal investigation after a department manager at the Moreno Valley-based hospital reported the laptop missing on Dec. 1.
Remm said she has no reason to believe the laptop’s patient-related files or information have been accessed or used in any way. As a precaution, letters are being mailed out to inform affected patients about the potential data breach, Remm added.
She said computer forensic experts determined that information of about 7,900 patients might have been stored on the laptop. The information can include differing amounts of patient information, including name, address, birth date and, in some instances, a Social Security number and health-plan policy number. Limited clinical information, such as diagnosis, also might have been present.
“We are taking significant measures to safeguard patient privacy and to restrict unauthorized access to computers and devices that potentially contain patient data,” Remm said. “The privacy of our patients is a fundamental priority in our organization and part of our commitment to quality health care.”
The hospital has strengthened its inventory controls to prevent future loss of electronic devices, while cyber-security experts are currently encrypting all the organization’s computers and laptops to safeguard patient data, according to Remm.
Hospital officials encourage patients concerned about personal information to closely monitor their credit reports by calling 1-877-322-8228 to request a free annual report from the three U.S. credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. The report also may be requested online at www.annualcreditreport.com.
Patients concerned about whether their information was stored on the laptop are encouraged to contact the RCRMC confidential assistance line staffed with professionals familiar with this incident. The confidential assistance line is available from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday at 1-866-313-7993.