Computers stolen from medical site

January 1, 2006

By Bill Schackner, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A UPMC-owned medical practice in Squirrel Hill has begun notifying as many as 700 patients that personal information about them may have been compromised when six computers were stolen from doctors' offices.

Officials yesterday confirmed the break-in that occurred the weekend of Dec. 17 at the Squirrel Hill Family Medicine location in the 5600 block of Wilkins Avenue. The burglary is being investigated by Pittsburgh police.

One of the computers contained a file with names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth for a number of patients.

The data compromised was "not information about health care, not information about their medical conditions," said UPMC spokeswoman Jane Duffield.

The nature of the data did not require the practice to notify individuals, but officials nevertheless decided that it was prudent to do so, Ms. Duffield said.

"While we don't know whether the thieves will use this information, we at UPMC believe that it is our obligation to inform you that the theft occurred and to address next steps to help to prevent identity theft," stated the Dec. 20 letter mailed to patients.

It outlined services and information available to those who may have been affected. In addition, UPMC informed the patients that it has agreed to cover for one year the cost of credit monitoring services.

According to police, the break-in occurred some time between 6 p.m. on Dec. 16 and 7:30 a.m. on Dec. 19. Someone kicked in the front door to the practice and removed a 4-foot-by-4-foot window from the receptionist's desk to gain entry to the practice's offices.

An initial report to police indicated seven computers and three monitors were taken. Ms. Duffield said the actual number of computers taken was six.

The letter, which apologized for any potential concern or inconvenience caused by the theft, assured patients that "no other items and/or documents containing patient information were taken from the practice."

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