Sensitive data disappears in medical mystery

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12 Oct, 2012 Updated Fri 12 Oct 2012 16:27 CEST
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The sensitive medical data of thousands of patients has disappeared from a hospital in Baden Württemberg, southern Germany. Police are now investigating, although there are no obvious signs of theft.

On September 19, an employee at Rastatt district hospital was taking the daily back up copy of patients’ data back to the archive for storage when he was called away for a few minutes, leaving the magnetic data tapes unattended. When he returned they were gone.

The tapes contained 300,000 data sets, including not only the names, ages, addresses and contact details of all the patients treated or admitted in the district since 1996, but also the results of their medical tests and the corresponding doctors’ notes, SRW local radio station reported on Friday.

Assuming the data had been mislaid, the employee did not report the loss until a week later, thinking one of his colleagues would have picked up the tapes or accidentally thrown them out.

When the hospital management were finally informed they, together with the state data protection office, decided to go to the police. There have been no leads since investigations began on October 5, police told the station.

Public prosecutors said theft was unlikely.

“We can’t work out who could be interested in such data,” said Michael Klose, spokesman for the public prosecutor, who said the lab results cannot be read by third parties without access to the clinic system, though theoretically the doctors’ notes could.

In a public call for vigilance, Die Welt has called on former and current patients to look out for anyone having suspicious or unexpected knowledge of their physical health.

The Local/jlb



2012/10/12 16:27

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