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Thieves get away with office equipment and patient information in Illinois burglary

August 26, 2013 6:25 pm by | 0 Comments

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NORMAL -- Advocate Medical Group patients in Central Illinois are among those whose personal information may be at risk after four computers were stolen in a burglary of an Advocate administrative building in Park Ridge.

How many Central Illinois patients were affected isn't known, Advocate Medical Group spokeswoman Stephanie Johnson said Friday evening.

The computers contained patient information used by Advocate for administrative purposes and may have included names, addresses, dates of birth and Social Security numbers as well as limited clinical information, such as treating physician and departments, diagnoses, medical record numbers, medical service codes and health insurance information, Advocate said in a statement on its website.

But patient medical records were not on the computers and patient care will not be affected, Johnson said.

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"At this time, we have no reason to believe the computers were taken for the information they contained," Johnson told The Pantagraph. "However, out of an abundance of caution, we are notifying all potentially impacted individuals."

The computers were password-protected but they weren't unencrypted, Advocate's statement said. Unencrypted data may be interpreted by hackers.

Advocate began sending letters to affected patients Friday. "The mailed letters outline the steps for patients to follow," Johnson said.

Advocate also has established a call center for patients with questions. Patients who believe they have been affected but who don't receive a letter by Sept. 19 should call 877-218-1009 between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. A ten-digit reference code -- 4081080613 -- should be provided when prompted.

A dedicated webpage is at www.patientnotice.org.

The burglary was July 15 and Advocate immediately notified Park Ridge police and began its own investigation to determine what was on the computers.

Asked why patients were being notified more than a month after the burglary, Johnson said: "There was a large volume of data on the computers and the data was very complex. We were comprehensive and thorough in our analysis of the data to ensure we were notifying every patient who may be affected."

For patients affected, Advocate is offering one year of free credit monitoring and identity theft protection through Experian. Advocate also improved security at the building that was burglarized and is evaluating what other facilities may need similar protections and has reinforced security protocols and encryption programs with employees. ___

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