Boston-based Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) is notifying roughly 1,000 patients that their personal information may have been on a laptop computer and cell phone stolen from a physician during an armed robbery.

How many victims? 999 patients who received treatment at BWH's Neurology and Neurosurgery programs, as well as a small number of individuals who participated in research studies. 

What type of personal information? Names, ages, medical record numbers, medications, and diagnosis and treatment information.

What happened? A laptop computer and cell phone belonging to a BWH physician were stolen during an armed robbery.

What was the response? BWH immediately notified the Boston Police Department. BWH initiated an investigation, and created a multidisciplinary workgroup to respond to the incident. BWH is reviewing related policies and procedures, and is determining if there are steps that can be taken to decrease the likelihood of similar incidents occurring in the future. BWH is notifying potentially affected individuals.

Details: The theft – which occurred off of BWH premises – took place on Sept. 24. During the robbery, the assailants forced the physician to disclose the pass codes and encryption keys to the devices. The devices contained the data of patients who received treatment at BWH's Neurology and Neurosurgery programs between October 2011 and September 2014, as well as a small number of individuals who participated in research studies. The information did not include Social Security numbers, insurance numbers or other financial account information. The devices have not been recovered.

Quote: “We have no knowledge that the information on these devices has been accessed, and we are reviewing related policies and procedures in an effort to determine if there are steps that may decrease the likelihood of this type of incident in the future,” Cedric Priebe, MD, chief information officer at BWH, said.

Source: brighamandwomens.org, “Brigham and Women's Hospital Notifies Patients of a Potential Privacy Incident,” Nov. 17, 2014; brighamandwomens.org, “Privacy Incident Notification for Brigham and Women's Hospital Patients,” Nov. 17, 2014.