Sutter Health reports breach on billing documents

Sutter Health announced Friday that it is notifying 2,582 patients that personal information was included in electronic versions of billing documents that a former employee emailed to a personal account without authorization.

For all but two of the affected patients, no Social Security numbers, financial information or driver’s license data were included, according to a news release. The unauthorized handling of the documents was discovered during a review of the former employee’s email activity and computer access, Sutter Health officials said.

Most of the patients involved in the April 26, 2013, incident live in the Sacramento region and are patients of Sacramento-based Sutter Medical Foundation.

The electronic information for all affected patients included name, date of birth, insurance identification number, date of service and billing code. A California driver’s license number was included for one patient, and a Social Security number and California driver’s license number were included for another patient.

Sutter Health began an investigation Aug. 27 after learning of possible improper conduct by the former employee, who worked for Sutter Physician Services, which handles billing for Sutter Health’s physician medical foundations, according to the news release.

Sutter Health officials said there was no evidence that any of the patient information was used or disclosed to others. Patients receiving the letter, mailed Friday, will be offered free credit monitoring services for one year. Officials said Sutter Health has notified the appropriate government agencies.

“Our patients trust us to provide their care and protect their privacy,” Stephen Lockhart, Sutter Health’s chief medical officer, said in a written statement. “We believe protecting patients’ health information is the responsibility of every employee. We require employees to sign confidentiality agreements. In addition, we train them to follow privacy and information security policies and regulations. We deeply regret this incident occurred.”

More details

Patients with questions or concerns may call 877-235-0796 between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. When prompted, they will need to enter a 10-digit reference number: 2456090915.