Doctor Loses Flash Drive With Patient Information

January 31, 2008

By Esme Murphy

Parents with fertility problems know that it's a very private struggle. Couples often don't even tell close friends or relatives they're having trouble having a baby.

That's why the loss of patient information at the University of Minnesota's Reproductive Medicine Center has leaders there especially worried.

Dr. Theodore Nagel, a doctor at the fertility clinic, lost a flash drive that he used to back up his computer. The drive holds details of infertility treatments for 3,100 patients going back to 1999.

"The physician who is affected is absolutely mortified and we are also very concerned," said Dr. Bobbi Daniels, U of M Physicians Medical Director.

Anyone who finds this lost drive can merely plug it into their computer and all the information will be available.

University of Minnesota regulations require doctors to encode information on flash drives. Nagel did not do that on his flash drive nor did he use a password.

"Its a concern to us that that didn't occur here," said Daniels.

"I think this would be the hardest for people that are currently undergoing fertility treatments," said Amy Anderson, a former infertility patient.

Anderson now works with Resolve an infertility support group.

"You are talking about your sexuality and just a lot of private medical issues," said Anderson.

She underwent fertility treatments at the same University of Minnesota clinic where Nagel works. Anderson gave birth to twin girls two-and-half years ago. Her information was not on the drive.

While she worries about the patients, she also sympathizes with the doctor.

"It is hard but once and a while accidents do happen," said Anderson.

Nagel reported the loss of the drive himself and he's written the patients a letter of apology.

The clinic has also set up a hot line for those affected. The lost drive did not contain any financial or social security information.

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