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— Procedures in reporting medical information are being examined after a compact disc sent from Wayne Memorial Hospital went missing.
"We will make some changes," said Lisa Champeau, public relations manager for the hospital.
According to information released by the hospital, Wayne Memorial started sending out letters on Jan. 18 to patients affected by an incident involving an unencrypted compact disc.
Champeau said Wayne Memorial officials discovered the CD containing patient information was missing.
In the letter, hospital officials said an investigation was immediately launched and hospital patients were assured that "every step was being taken to address the incident and to protect their privacy."
Hospital officials said information on the CD included it contained names of patients who used WMH services between 2007 and 2012, account balances and, in some cases, Medicare numbers.
Champeau said it was not all patients who used the hospital during that time period.
"We honestly don't know," said Champeau of what could have happened to the CD.
She said the disc was hand delivered to the post office in Honesdale and sent by certified mail to the hospitals government authorized Medical Administrative Contractor.
When officials at the contracting firm received the package, it was damaged and without the CD, according to the hospital.
That happened on Dec. 3 and that's when the formal investigation began.
Champeau said WMH officials "conducted a diligent search" for the CD both with the United States Postal Service and the contractor.
"To date, WMH has been unable to locate the CD," said Champeau.
WMH administrators said they have "no reason" to believe any of the information has been accessed or used improperly.
The hospital has dedicated a call center for those affected.
In addition, the hospital is offering to eligible individuals one year of credit monitoring services provided through Experian. You can find out more about that by visiting the website at wmh.org.
According to the website, anyone who thinks they are affected by this but who does not receive a letter by Feb. 8, call 866-221-0150 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
When asked if there was a reason the information on the CD was not encrypted, Champeau said that is an issue they are examining.
She said all of the normal procedures were followed in mailing the information to the company.
Government regulations require that information be "reasonably protected," she said. However, Champeau said the hospital is being proactive when it comes to studying the procedures and what changes need to be implemented.
Champeau was also asked why five years of information was included on the documents.
"We submit this type of information annually to the authorized Medicare Administrative Contractor. The list includes account balance information and identifying information prescribed by Medicare for accounts that meet certain criteria," said Chief Financial Officer Michael Clifford.
"WMH deeply regrets an inconveniences or concerns that that incident may cause those affected," said a statement in a press release. "The hospital takes this incident very seriously and is reviewing its policies and procedures to ensure patient information is protected.
"The hospital is committed to protecting all patient information and educating staff hospital-wide on the importance of maintaining the confidentiality of patient information entrusted to Wayne Memorial."