Detroit investigates two medical record breaches

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The internal affairs unit of the Detroit Police Department teamed up with the Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion on Tuesday in the investigation of two recent incidents involving medical record theft that took place this fall from health programs within the city.

The first theft occurred in late October, when a flash drive was stolen from a health department employee’s vehicle. Files on the flash drive included birth certificate information for babies born in 2008 and the first half of 2009, as well as information regarding parent names, addresses, Medicaid and Social Security numbers and health conditions, said a statement released by the Detroit health department.

During the Thanksgiving holiday season, a second incident at the Herman Kiefer Health Complex occurred as five computers were stolen from the immunization program. According to the health department, one of the stolen desktop PCs contained Medicare and Medicaid seasonal flu billing information for 2008.

At press time, neither the flash drive nor the computers have been recovered and no suspects have been detained, said the police department.

"It is unclear at this time whether the theft of the flash drive from the employee's vehicle and the theft of the computers from Herman Kiefer are connected," said John Roach, a police spokesman.

Unauthorized disclosure of any of the stolen personal information is considered illegal and could result in identity theft, said the statement.

According to Michael McElrath, a spokesman for the health department, nearly 5,000 letters are currently being sent to the individuals whose information was stolen, informing them of the breach and the risk they now face of identity theft.  However, more letters are slated to be issued as up to 10,000 individuals may be affected by the data breach, said the health department.

Individuals who have received a letter are urged to call the Detroit Department of Health or visit their Website for more information regarding identify theft protection.