UNC Health Care is alerting its prenatal patients that their confidential medical information may have been shared with their home county, including Social Security numbers, sexually-transmitted disease information and more.
Women seen for prenatal appointments at two UNC Health Care obstetric clinics between 2014 and 2017 may have filled out a form that was sent to the health department in their county by mistake, according to a news release from UNC Health Care.
On March 20, the University of North Carolina Health Care System sent letters to 1,300 patients who are thought to have completed “Pregnancy Home Risk Screening Forms” at their prenatal appointments between April 2014 and February 2017. Only patients seen at the Women’s Clinic at N.C. Women’s Hospital and UNC Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Rex during this time may have been affected.
The forms were used to collect personal information from Medicaid-eligible prenatal patients and were shared with patients’ local health departments to connect them with support services. But a review of the obstetric clinic practices revealed that forms completed by women who were not eligible for Medicaid “may have been mistakenly sent to the county health department where they live.”
The forms may have included information about the patients, such as demographic information including name and address; race and ethnicity; Social Security number; information about physical and mental health; sexually transmitted diseases; HIV status; smoking, drug and alcohol use; and medical diagnosis information related to pregnancy and prior pregnancy, according to UNC Health Care.
All county health departments that may have received the forms are required by state and federal privacy laws to protect medical information in all forms, paper and electronic. The clinics have revised their procedure for patients completing the forms to ensure only the correct ones are sent to county health departments, and employees received training on the new process.
UNC Health Care also is working with all county health departments involved to request that the paper forms be returned to the clinics and that the counties purge all electronic information about the forms that were mistakenly sent.
While UNC Health Care said in its statement that it does not believe any of the patients will be at financial risk as a result of the release, UNC Health Care advised patients of options to monitor and review their credit reports and has offered free fraud resolution services for any patient who suffers from identity theft as a result of this incident.
A call center also has been set up for the possible breach. Patients who have questions or want additional information can call 1-800-596-8362 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Abbie Bennett: 919-836-5768; @AbbieRBennett