Personal information — including names and some clinical data — of thousands of patients at Columbia University Medical Center ended up freely visible on the Internet, Columbia and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital have confirmed.
The information on 6,800 patients was “inadvertently” placed on a server, hospital officials reported.
But whose server? Were the data posted to one of the hospital’s web pages or some other entity’s? I’ve sent ID Experts a query on that.
According to an FAQ posted on behalf of the hospital by ID Experts:
During July, 2010, personal information, including names and clinical data of patients who were at one time patients in the Intensive Care Unit at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University Medical Center, was available on the Internet. The Hospital and the Medical Center learned of this exposure of personal information on July 29, 2010.
The information was on an employee’s computer which was inadvertently open to the Internet.
Clinical data in this case may have included name and may have included common medical information: age, surgical status, vital signs (blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, and pulse), medications and laboratory test results. In most cases, not all of this information was included.
Only ten people had Social Security Numbers exposed. A separate notification was sent to each of these ten patients.
The FAQ does not indicate how the hospital found out about the exposure. I’ve asked ID Experts about that, too. Update: see the hospital’s statement on that here.
Yesterday, this breach had turned up in search results but attempts to access the statement on the hospital’s web site were unsuccessful. Today, there is a notice linked from the home page that says:
We are sorry to report that NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University Medical Center have learned of a security breach that may have resulted in exposure of clinical data and private information of approximately 6800 of our patients. The information was inadvertently exposed on a web page and as soon as this error was discovered, we made sure that the web page was removed.
If you have any questions regarding this breach, please call 1.866.523.6760, visit the website www.NYPSecure.com or send an e-mail to info@NYPSecure.com.
I’ve also asked ID Experts if file-sharing software was involved and if the hospital was able to determine how many people may have viewed the exposed patient data. If I get any responses, I’ll post them.