File theft spawns Providence mass mailing

January 28, 2006

The theft of data from Providence Home Services may affect up to 1,573 former and current patients, according to a Providence Health System spokesman.

Providence Home Services has begun contacting current and former patients following the theft of tapes and disks that hold confidential data. The theft involves the records of some 365,000 patients.

The theft only affects Providence Home Services patients. Patients who have received care through Providence hospitals and clinics were not affected.

Home Services include providing home oxygen and infusion, medical equipment such as crutches and wheelchairs, along with other medical care administered in the patient’s home.

Gary Walker, public relations coordinator, said Providence cannot yet ascertain how many of the affected patients are still in the Hood River area, as the files include people who received services here dating back to 1987.

The data were on computer backup disks and tapes in a case that was stolen from the car of a Providence employee. The theft was reported on Dec. 31, 2005. Providence is working with local law enforcement and the FBI.

The patients are predominantly in Oregon (83 percent) and Washington (16 percent), with the rest in other states.

The duplicate data sources were taken home nightly by designated employees as part of a backup process intended to guarantee access to critical information in case of an emergency at Providence’s primary offices. The theft was reported on Dec. 31.

Walker said the organization has firm reason to believe the information has not been compromised.

“There is no evidence that this person or persons has accessed that information,” Walker said.

“It’s on a special kind of optical disk, and you’d need specialized skills for it,” Walker said. “This information is protected. It’s not on generally available media. It’s not on a floppy, CD, or DVD. It’s not proprietary hardware but it’s a type that is not generally available.”

Further, the stolen data includes the files of about 1,500

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