Stolen laptop incidents put info for 13,000 patients at risk

Personal information for nearly 13,000 patients at healthcare facilities in North and South Carolina was put in jeopardy in two separate laptop thefts announced last week. The thefts are the latest in a string of potential patient data breaches announced in recent weeks.

In Burlington, N.C., more than 5,300 past and present patients at Hospice Palliative Care of Alamance Caswell and LifePath Home Health were notified last week that their information may have been compromised following a Feb. 24 burglary, WFMY News 2 reported. Three laptops containing some unencrypted patient information in emails were stolen, in addition to empty needles and syringes and other miscellaneous items.

Two suspects have been arrested in relation to the thefts. Facility officials told WFMY that while, to their knowledge, the thieves had not tampered with the laptops, they are offering a year's worth of free credit monitoring to anyone potentially impacted.

"We will do all we can to work with our patients or their loved ones whose personal information may have been compromised and help them work through the process," Peter Barcus, executive director of Hospice of Alamance Caswell, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, in Columbia, S.C., officials at William Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center have contacted more than 7,400 veterans whose information was on a laptop stolen from the facility on February 11, WIS reported. Personal information, including names, birth dates and partial Social Security numbers, were among the data stolen.

So far, the laptop has not been found. The VA is offering victims one year of free credit monitoring via Equifax Credit Watch, and suggested that they place a fraud alert on their other credit scores (Experian and TransUnion).

"Any time a veteran's personal information may be compromised, we take the matter very seriously," Rebecca Wiley, medical center director, said, according to WIS. "We are reaching out to each veteran who may have been impacted."

Last week, the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services announced that a laptop containing protected health information for 652 of its clients had been stolen and then recovered within a 10-day span in Gig Harbor, Wash.

And in March, officials at the University of Mississippi Medical Center announced that a shared password-protected laptop recently went missing.

To learn more:
- read the WFMY News 2 article
- here's the WIS post

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