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Laptop thefts compromise 729,000 hospital patient files

Thieves steal two laptops containing patient data from an administration building of San Gabriel Valley-based AHMC Healthcare. The hospital group is uncertain if the data were accessed or used.

October 21, 2013|By Richard Winton

The health information of 729,000 patients was compromised when thieves stole two laptops from an administration building of a San Gabriel Valley-based hospital group, officials said Monday.

The laptops were stolen Oct. 12 and contain data from patients treated at AHMC hospitals: Garfield Medical Center in Monterey Park, Monterey Park Hospital, Greater El Monte Community Hospital in South El Monte, Whittier Hospital Medical Center, San Gabriel Valley Medical Center and Anaheim Regional Medical Center.

The thieves swiped the laptops from a video-monitored sixth-floor office on a medical campus that officials said is "gated and patrolled by security."

The suspects broke into the office and stole two password-protected laptops, they said.

Gary Hopkins, a spokesman for AHMC, said the hospital group called Alhambra police as soon as the theft was discovered Oct. 14. Security video showed that the theft occurred Oct. 12.

According to the hospital group, the computers contained data including patients' names, Medicare/insurance identification numbers, diagnosis/procedure codes and insurance/patient payment records. Some of the files contained the Social Security numbers of Medicare patients, officials said.

There was no evidence the information was accessed or used, but that cannot be ruled out, AHMC Healthcare Inc. officials said in a statement.

"We regret any inconvenience or concern this incident may cause our patients," they said in the statement.

AHMC Healthcare had already asked an auditing firm to perform a security risk assessment and it was following the recommendations, officials said. Administrators will now expedite a policy of encrypting all laptops, they said.

Hospital officials said affected patients may want to place fraud alerts on their credit files and order their credit reports to look for fraudulent activity.

Under federal law, hospitals are required to report potential medical data breaches involving more than 500 people. The breach of 729,000 files would rank as the 11thlargest in the nation when compared to data on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services website. In California, two other medical groups have had larger data compromises involving more patients.

Hopkins said patients with concerns or questions may contact the group at (855) 977-6678.

richard.winton@latimes.com

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