Hospital patient records turn up in Dallas park after contractors fails to destroy them

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Hundreds of thousands of patients may have had personal information exposed after medical records from Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth turned up in a Dallas park in May.

How many victims? About 277,000 patients seen between the 1980s and 1990.

What type of personal information? Names, addresses, birth dates, clinical data, health insurance data and, in some cases, Social Security numbers.

What happened? A sizable number of patient records printed on microfiche were discovered by an unidentified individual in a Dallas park on May 11. An additional three sheets of microfiche were located in two other public areas shortly after.

What was the response? The hospital immediately notified former patients and began an investigation. A call center support line was established for all patients, and a credit protection service was made available for eligible individuals. The hospital and the health system of which it was a part, Texas Health Resources, changed document destruction vendors.

Texas Health Resources fired its former contractor, Shred-it.

Details: Shred-it could not handle the plastic microfiche sheets the records were printed on. Shred-it agreed to destroy the records at an off-site facility, but an investigation reveals Shred-it did not complete the task.

Quote: “The hospital believes that it is unlikely that the information was accessed or used inappropriately because microfiche is no longer commonly used, and specialized equipment is needed to read the information it contains,” the hospital said in a release.

Source: texashealth.org, “Fort Worth Hospital Notifies Patients from 1980 to 1990 of Potential Records Privacy Issue,” July 11, 2013.

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