Indian Health Service discloses privacy breach of patient data

The Rapid City Service Unit in Rapid City, South Dakota. Photo from IHS

The Indian Health Service is notifying patients and offering them credit monitoring and reporting services after their private medical data was inadvertently left in a public area in South Dakota.

There is no indication that the information on the 620 patients has been used. But the file folder that was left in a public area at the Rapid City Service Unit contained names, Social Security numbers and Department of Veterans Affairs enrollment information, all highly-sensitive data.

“The Indian Health Service understands the importance of safeguarding our patients’ personal information, and we take that responsibility very seriously,” Acting IHS Director Dr. Yvette Roubideaux said in a press release today. “We will do all we can to work with patients whose personal information may have been compromised. We regret that this incident has occurred and we are committed to preventing future occurrences.”

According to the IHS, the file folder contained information on patients who have received care at the Rapid City Service Unit and at the Rosebud Service Unit on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation. The folder was not lost -- it was left in the public area and discovered a "short time later" the press release stated.

Letters were sent to the 620 patients on July 16. The IHS apologized for the incident, which took place on May 30.

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