John Muir Health began notifying more than 5,000 patients on Monday of a potential breach in the security of their personal health information following the theft of two laptops computers in February. The laptops were stolen from the John Muir Physician Network perinatal office in Walnut Creek the evening of Feb. 4. The theft was discovered the next morning, said Ben Drew, director of corporate communications for John Muir Health. It appeared that several locks had been shimmied open at an entrance to the main building and on the door to the perinatal office, Drew said. He said the only items taken were the two laptops. Health officials notified Walnut Creek police immediately. They have also been conducting their own internal investigation into the incident, Drew said. John Muir Health has since determined that the stolen computers
contained the personal health information of 5,450 patients going back more than three years. The laptops were password protected and contained data in a format that would not be readily accessible. John Muir Health has no evidence that any of the stolen information has been accessed or used inappropriately, but began notifying patients of the theft by mail Monday, warning them to take steps to protect their identities. Patients are being told to put a fraud alert on their credit files, and John Muir Health has arranged to provide identify theft protection to affected patients at no cost to them for one year. When asked why patients weren’t notified until two months after the laptops were stolen, Drew said that health officials wanted to make sure they knew exactly whose information was on the computers before contacting patients. He said the health organization also wanted to have in place a system for answering questions from patients and wanted to be able to offer the free identity theft service. Drew said health officials worked as quickly as they could to investigate what was on the computers and who could be impacted by the theft. Since the laptops disappeared, John Muir Health has implemented several additional safety measures. In addition to keeping patient information in a guarded building on password-protected computers, the organization is now using data encryption software to encode patient information, and laptop computers in the perinatal office are being locked down. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has also been notified of the theft. Please call the Fugitive Watch hot line at 1-800-9-CAUGHT (1-800-922-8448) or text us at 408-355-0999 or CLICK HERE to send a confidential email tip, if you have any information that can help solve this crime.
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