Henry Ford Health System notifies more than 15k patients that X-rays containing personal info were stolen

23 July 2013

July 22 X-rays possibly containing personal information about 15,417 Henry Ford Health System patients were stolen from a Detroit warehouse in May, according to a letter the hospital system sent to patients earlier this month.

Thieves may have taken the X-rays because of the silver that is contained in them, according to the letter. Silver, used in X-rays since the 1950s, interacts with radiation to allow for a clearer image, according to Henry Ford spokesman David Olejarz.

“We apologize for what happened and the difficulty this situation has caused,” the letter read, in part. Olejarz said it took several weeks to investigate the incident and identify patients affected.

The stolen X-rays were dated between 1996 and 2003. Patient names, addresses and dates of birth may have been included, but health insurance numbers and social security numbers were not, according to a July 16 letter sent to patients.

In cases of stolen medical information, the concern is most often about stolen medical ID cards. Holders then can tap into medical services or obtain drugs using stolen medical IDs, said Larry Ponemon, founder of the Ponemon Institute, a Traverse City-based firm that conducts research about privacy and security.

This time?

“It seems to be a low-tech crime,” Ponemon said.

Health system officials learned of the theft from the independently-operated warehouse May 24. It is the fourth and largest data breach reported by the Henry Ford Health System since 2009 when the new federal Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health law began requiring public reports of health information breaches affecting more than 500 people.

Of the dozen breaches in Michigan affecting more than 122,000 people, four of the incidents have been reported by Detroit-based Henry Ford.

Ponemon said the number of incidents may show that Henry Ford is better at detecting breaches and reporting them than other systems.

The letter called the incident “isolated” to the warehouse and said it did not involve Henry Ford employees. Patients’ X-rays are now kept on computer, according to the letter. The hospital system asked patients with questions to call 877-819-9692.

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