Geisinger informs patients of disclosure of protected health information

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Dec. 27, 2010 WILKES-BARRE PA — In accordance with Geisinger Health System policy and applicable federal regulations, Geisinger Health System has notified approximately 2,928 patients that some of their Protected Health Information (PHI) has been disclosed in an unauthorized manner.

On November 6, 2010, Geisinger became aware that on or about November 3, 2010, a limited amount of PHI was emailed by a former Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center gastroenterologist from his Geisinger computer to his home email account in an un-encrypted manner. The physician had sent this information to his home computer to complete an analysis of his procedures.

The information includes patient names, Geisinger medical record numbers, procedure, indications and the physician’s brief impressions regarding the care provided. It did not include address, telephone number, social security number, patient account information or any financial information that could make affected patients vulnerable to financial identity theft.

“Immediately upon speaking with the physician, he contacted and authorized his home email provider to delete the protected health information from its network and servers,” said Geisinger Privacy Officer John Gildersleeve. “He also deleted this information from his home computer.”

Notification to patients was completed as part of Geisinger’s health information security program and in compliance with the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009.

“We have reviewed our internal practices and taken appropriate action to avoid reoccurrence,” said Gildersleeve. “With the short time frame and the doctor’s forthright explanation, we believe there is little risk that the protected health information was seen by anyone other than the physician himself. We take our commitment to maintaining our patients’ privacy seriously and regret any inconvenience this inadvertent disclosure may have caused.”

Gildersleeve emphasized that affected patients have been contacted by letter. “If you did not receive a letter, your PHI was not included in the email disclosure,” he said. Anyone with questions should call toll-free 1-888-777-9863.

Geisinger is recognized as a national leader in the use of health information technology and electronic health records.