Last year, South Shore Hospital in Weymouth admitted to losing more than 800,000 patient health records. While the hospital admitted this mistake to Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley and the public, it never directly notified each person whose medical records had been lost. Most of those affected by this Massachusetts hospital negligence also likely didn’t realize that they are entitled to sue over this breach of privacy.
Although the hospital decided to invoke a provision under state law that allows consumers to be told of such breaches through the “substitute notice” process-in this case, the media, e-mail, and the hospital’s Web site-Coakley’s office made it clear that it did not agree with the way that the Weymouth hospital chose to notify those who were affected.
The records that the South Shore hospital lost were computer files containing personal information belonging to patients, doctors, employees, donors, volunteers, vendors, and business partners. This information included names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, phone numbers, driver’s license numbers, patient numbers, medical record numbers, health plan information, diagnoses and treatment information, dates of service, and credit card information found in files for the period of January 1, 1996 to January 6, 2010. The information went missing early last year as data was being shipped to a contractor that was supposed to destroy them.
While experts have said that opening and deciphering the files would be tough unless the person were in possession of certain high-tech skills, the loss of these medical records is still a blatant breach of privacy. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for hospitals to lose or mishandle medical records. It is just that in most instances, they are not held accountable. Filing a Boston hospital negligence lawsuit would allow someone whose records were stolen do just that. It also may be the only way to get hospitals to set up systems and procedures to stop this type of breach from happening. No one wants to find that they are now the victim of identity theft because a hospital didn’t protect their private information.
Our Boston personal injury law firm would like to offer you a free consultation to discuss your legal options.
Hospital says 800K records may be missing, Boston.com, July 19, 2010
Attorney General Martha Coakley: 800,000 Consumers Affected by South Shore Hospital Data Breach to Receive Substitute Notification, Mass.gov, September 8, 2010
Related Web Resources:
Delayed Compliance with New Regulations Has Increased Data Breaches and Medical Identity Theft in U.S. Hospitals, Identity Theft Daily News, April 20, 2010
South Shore Hospital in Weymouth