UTHealth informs patients of incident related to patient information

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HOUSTON – (Aug. 28, 2013) – UT Physicians, the medical group practice of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) Medical School, announces that an unencrypted laptop computer containing some patient information was discovered missing on Aug. 2 from a locked closet in a UT Physicians orthopedic clinic. UT Physicians immediately notified police and began a search for the laptop, which had last been used on July 19. An investigation continues and the laptop has not been located.

UT Physicians does not have any reason to believe that the information has been accessed or used by any unauthorized individual, but as a precaution began mailing letters today to 596 patients whose information was stored on the laptop.

The specialized laptop computer attached to an electromyography machine included hand and arm image data from February 2010 to July 13. Patient information stored on the computer included names, birth dates and medical record numbers. There were no addresses, social security numbers, or insurance or other financial information stored on the laptop. The laptop was password protected but did not have encryption technology to scramble data in a way that makes it more difficult for unauthorized users to retrieve information from the device.

UT Physicians is committed to patient privacy and deeply regrets that this incident occurred. Encryption of all laptops has been the policy at UT Physicians and UTHealth for the last two years. To date, all known laptops – more than 5,000 – have been encrypted. The medical group and UTHealth have taken steps to ensure that the missing laptop in the orthopedic clinic is an isolated incident.

While UT Physicians and UTHealth officials continue to work with law enforcement in their investigation, they are conducting a physical search of all clinics and offices to ensure that there are no other unencrypted laptops or storage devices attached to medical equipment. They are tightening the processes for the purchase of medical equipment. They also have initiated additional review processes and inventories and invested in hardware, software and personnel to ensure that all personal information on UT Physicians’ and UTHealth’s computers and hard drives is encrypted.

Patients who would like more information are encouraged to contact the Privacy Office at 713-500-3391, email privacy@uth.tmc.edu or write to the Privacy Office at 7000 Fannin, Suite 1477, Houston, Texas 77030.

About UT Physicians:

One of Houston’s largest physician practices, UT Physicians provides comprehensive multi-specialty care for adults, adolescents and children—from routine wellness exams, to care for common illnesses, to highly-specialized treatments for complex medical conditions. As the medical group practice of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) Medical School, UT Physicians offers high-quality, personalized care at its flagship in the Texas Medical Center and at a growing number of health centers in the Houston community. The team of internationally recognized medical experts includes more than 1,000 doctors certified in 80 medical specialties, with many listed among the “Best Doctors in America.” For more information, visit www.UTPhysicians.com or call 888-488-3627.

Meredith Raine
Media Hotline: 713-500-3030