Officials for Seton Healthcare Family said Tuesday that a hospital laptop containing patient information, including individual names, Social Security numbers and medical information from about 5,500 patients was stolen this month.
The laptop was discovered missing from the Seton McCarthy Clinic in East Austin the morning of Oct. 4 and Austin police have been notified, according to Seton officials. It was taken between 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3, and 9 a.m. Friday, Oct. 4, from the Seton clinic at 2811 E. Second St.
Seton officials said in a statement that they do not believe the laptop was stolen for identity theft purposes or that patient information “has been used inappropriately.” Individuals affected by the security breach will be notified by letter, officials said.
Seton has taken steps to enhance security for all of its facilities, according to the statement.
The laptop had been in a work area when it was taken, said Seton spokesman Steve Taylor.
An Austin police official said an active search for the thief has been suspended for lack of credible leads. The case will likely remain suspended until new leads arise, an official said.
Although it was password protected, the laptop was not encrypted, officials said, and therefore records could be accessed. Among the sensitive information in the laptop are demographic information about patients seen at three area clinics — the Seton McCarthy, Seton Topfer and Seton Kozmetsky community health centers — and users of the Seton Total Health Partners program.
Officials said the stolen laptop contained patient names, addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, insurance information, Seton medical record numbers and some sensitive medical information such as patient diagnoses and immunization details.
“Unfortunately, due to a missed technology glitch during installation, this specific laptop did not have encryption software installed as required by Seton policy,” officials said in the statement. “Seton has taken steps to reduce the possibility of this happening again.”
As a result of the security breach, Seton is offering free identity theft protection for the affected patients for one year. It has partnered with identity protection and fraud detection firm CSID to provide the services, which include monitoring credit activity, Internet posts and public record reviews.
In 2007, a laptop was stolen from another Seton office in Austin that contained information on 7,800 uninsured patients, including names, birth dates and Social Security numbers.
Additional information about this month’s theft is available on Seton’s website at www.seton.net.