PeaceHealth employee accessed patient info unnecessarily

Medical center sends letter to nearly 2,000 of its patients

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian Health Reporter

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Nearly 2,000 patients at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center are being notified that an employee unnecessarily accessed their private health information.

The Vancouver medical center discovered on Aug. 9 that the employee accessed electronic files containing protected health information, including patient names, ages, medical record and account numbers, admission and discharge dates, progress notes and diagnosis.

Patient Social Security numbers and financial information were not accessed, the company said, and PeaceHealth officials do not believe any affected patients are at risk for identity theft.

An investigation revealed the employee accessed patient information between November 2011 and July 2017. The employee no longer works for PeaceHealth.

PeaceHealth began sending out letters to the 1,969 affected patients on Monday.

“We sincerely apologize to patients for any concern or inconvenience this has caused,” PeaceHealth officials said in a statement. “Patient privacy is among our highest priorities at PeaceHealth, and we take this very seriously.”

In a letter to affected patients, PeaceHealth encourages patients to remain vigilant against fraud and identity theft by reviewing account statements and free credit reports for unauthorized activity. The letter includes contact information and websites for credit reporting companies.

PeaceHealth has also set up a call center to support patients. The call center, 888-449-6634, is open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

PeaceHealth is continuing to invest in technology and following best practices to monitor and safeguard patient information. In addition, the medical center is reinforcing staff education about the appropriate access of patient information, according to the statement.