Laptop, containing patients' SSN, missing from Deaconess

December 27, 2006

By Kim Dacey and Rachel Chambliss

Deaconess Hospital administrators are advising patients Tuesday night that their identity may have been compromised after a laptop, containing information on 128 patients, is missing and presumed stolen from the respiratory therapy department.

Deaconess employees discovered the laptop was missing in late November. They searched for the computer, and still don't know if it really was stolen or just missing.

So to be on the safe side, they sent out a letter to all 128 patients telling them they could be at risk for identity theft.

Deaconess officials say the only patients at risk were given respiratory treatments on July 18 and 19 of this year.

But the good news is the laptop was password protected. So only Deaconess employees were able to access it.

But since that information includes patients Social Security numbers, they wanted to make those patients aware.

Right now, they aren't sure who last had the computer or who might be a suspect.

Statement from Deaconess Hospital:

Deaconess Hospital reports that a laptop computer used in its Respiratory Therapy Department is missing and presumed stolen. The laptop may have contained private information on up to 128 patients.

The laptop was used to record medical and personal information in patient medical charts. The computer was password protected, making it unlikely that anyone but certain Deaconess Hospital employees could access the information stored on the computer.

Deaconess does not have any information indicating the computer was stolen for the purpose of identity theft or that the information on the computer has been misused to date.

In a letter sent December 23, Deaconess notified 128 patients that their information may have been on the computer. Deaconess recommended that these patients take the following steps to protect themselves against identity theft:

* Monitor bank, credit card and other bills/statements in detail for the next two years.
* Contact credit card issuers and inform them of what has taken place.
* Obtain a credit report from each of the credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Each credit reporting bureau is required by law to provide each person one free credit report per year. The Credit Bureau Central Source can be contacted at 1-877-322-8228.
* Visit the Federal Trade Commission Web site at This site has several pages with advice for reducing opportunities for identity theft.

Deaconess has taken several steps to prevent future incidents of this nature, including establishing a Security/Privacy Team to install encryption software on computers and tightening procedures and monitoring systems.

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