$1M worth of equipment, patient info missing from VA hospital

The lack of recording inventory may be to blame for missing medical equipment worth more than a $1 million that contained patient information at a Florida VA hospital. Among the list of expensive items either lost or stolen from James A. Haley VA Hospital over a two-year period were televisions, laptops, microscopes, and a camera used to photograph before-and-after pictures of breast cancer surgery cases, reports ABC Action News.

"Everything goes into a tailspin when you're diagnosed with breast cancer. You're trusting your information is going to be confidential," said Shelby Coriarty, who helps lead a breast cancer support group at Florida Hospital Tampa Division.

The VA did not offer many details about the lost camera but did say that "appropriate action was taken" regarding the clinic physician responsible for it, according to the article.

In addition to the costs, patient information was at risk. The camera contained Social Security numbers, and a thumb drive that contained encrypted patient information also went missing, according to the article.

The Government Accountability Office says that lack of accountability and inaccurate records may be to blame because there is little "guidance for creating records of inventory."

"We've had these kind of problems before, and it boils down to either this is theft or it's messed up records or it's both and it's got to stop," Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said.

Theft accounted for 66 percent of reported health data breaches in the past two years, according to a report last month from consulting firm PwC. More than half of healthcare organizations reported they had at least one issue with information security and privacy since 2009.

For more information:
- read the ABC Action News article

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