Nebraska Medicine has suffered a data breach after an employee accessed patients’ medical records for almost three months without authorization or even the thinnest sliver of a legitimate reason.
A routine audit of the medical record system conducted in October of this year revealed the gross violation of patient privacy, which occurred over the summer of 2019.
The employee took their first digital stroll through patients’ records on July 11. The unauthorized access then continued until October 1, when the audit was carried out.
After discovering what was going on, Nebraska Medicine took steps to prevent any further unauthorized access from occurring. A particularly effective step was the organization’s decision to fire the employee in question the day after the privacy violation was detected.
Patients whose data had been compromised were notified by letter. Information accessed by the now former Nebraska Medicine employee included names, birth dates, addresses, medical record numbers, Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, clinical information, lab imagery, and notes from physicians.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Nebraska Medicine said: “Once Nebraska Medicine became aware of the incident, our staff took action to investigate, prevent further improper access, and to notify affected patients. We have no reason to believe the information accessed has been or will be misused.
“In cases where the Social Security number or driver’s license was accessible, we are offering credit monitoring for a full year, at no cost to the affected patients.”
In a letter sent to patients affected by the breach, privacy officer Debra Bishop apologized for the breach and offered assurance that steps had been taken to prevent a similar incident from happening.
Bishop wrote: “This individual no longer works for Nebraska Medicine and no longer has access to Nebraska Medicine systems. To help prevent something like this from happening again, we are continuing to regularly audit our electronic medical record system for potential unauthorized activity, and are retraining staff about appropriate access of patient information.”
Nebraska Medicine operates two major hospitals and 40 outpatient clinics in the Omaha area and has an international reputation for providing bone marrow and stem cell transplantation services. In 2006, Nebraska Medicine performed the first “frozen elephant trunk” heart procedure, otherwise known as open stent grafting, in the United States.