St. Francis contractor 'misplaces' sensitive patient info

October 23, 2006

Steve Jefferson, Eyewitness News

Personal information belonging to more than a quarter million hospital patients temporarily ended up in the wrong hands. A contractor for St. Francis Hospital misplaced names and Social Security numbers of 260,000 people. Now St. Francis Hospital officials hope to convince more than a quarter million patients their personal information is safe and sound.

A medical records contractor called Advanced Receivable Strategy sent out 260,000 letters informing patients about a possible disclosure of their personal information. It stems from an ARS employee who lost patients' names and or Social Security number a company compact disc.

Pam Newton, St. Francis patient, spoke on the telephone about the mistake. "She had no malicious intent but why would they allow their employee to carry such instant information away from an office?" wondered Newton.

ARS contracts with St. Francis in Beech Grove and 11 other hospitals, ten in the Indianapolis area and two in Illinois. Patients like Newton are concerned. "They have everything they need to obtain my identity," she said.

The letter explains the employee inadvertently left the computer discs in a returned laptop bag. Three days later, a Presbyterian minister who purchased the bag returned them. But minister or not, "Not with all the scandals you have in Washington and with clergymen, it's not comforting to know that," Newton said.

A spokesperson for St Francis referred Eyewitness News to the contractor responsible for the incident. A spokesperson for the contractor would only say they are sorry and working to make sure it doesn't happen again. The company also encouraged patients to check their credit reports.

Although the hospital contractor is confident no patient information has been compromised, the contractor isn't in the clear. Newton filed a complaint citing violation of federal patient confidential laws.

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