Harris Health System warns nearly 2,300 patients of possible privacy breach after personal files lost


HOUSTON – The Harris Health System is warning 2,298 patients about a potential privacy breach reported on Dec. 30, 2019.

Officials said two envelopes containing 143 pages of protected health information were lost while they were being transported to Ben Taub Hospital. They said the files were being taken to Ben Taub for scanning and archiving in Harris Health’s electronic medical record. Officials said the envelopes are believed to have contained information from patients at Gulfgate Health Center between Dec. 9, 2019, and Dec. 27, 2019.

“We believe the breach includes information for about 25 patients; however, we are not able to determine the specific patients affected,” says Carolynn R. Jones, chief compliance and risk officer for the Harris Health System. “Out of an abundance of caution and to best protect patient privacy, we are notifying a much larger patient group who were seen in the three weeks immediately prior to the loss.”

Once it was discovered that the envelopes were missing, Harris Health staff searched the transportation route but were unable to recover the files, officials said.

What information was in the lost documents?

Officials believe information included social security numbers, full names, dates of birth, addresses, telephone numbers, diagnosis, test results, insurance information, medical information and provider information.

Health officials said there has been no proof that anyone has been improperly using the disclosed information, but say it’s still important that all notified individuals take necessary steps in monitoring their personal identity.

What you should do to protect yourself

1. Monitor activity on existing personal/financial accounts

2. Request copies of credit reports from one or more of the three national credit reporting agencies. Affected individuals can get one free credit report from each of the three reporting agencies at one time so that a comparison may be made, or requests can be spread out over 12 months so that you can have an updated report every three to four months. If you’re impacted, you may only receive one free copy of a personal credit report from each of the three reporting agencies in a 12-month period. Individuals should review the information to identify any accounts that may have been established without their knowledge.

Contact Information for Credit Reporting Agencies (to request a copy of your credit report):

Experian – (888) 397-3742 or www.experian.com

Transunion – (800) 888-4213 or www.transunion.com

Equifax – (877) 322-8229 or www.equifax.com

3. If you identify any activity that occurred without your knowledge, contact the company or the companies involved. Those companies may require you to provide them with copies of a Federal Trade Commissions (FTC) Identity Theft Affidavit.

Because of the recent incident, Harris Health System officials say they revised procedures to better protect patients.

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