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Break-in results in theft of patient health information

CALGARY – A laptop computer used by the Calgary region’s Collaborative Mental Health Department was stolen from a therapist’s residence during a break-and-enter in October, according to a report on the region’s web site. The laptop – which was taken along with a number of items of personal property – contained the personal health information of approximately 1,000 patients under the age of six.

The information contained on the laptop’s database – which was protected by a three-step password authentication process – included personal and health information about children under the age of six who have received services from Collaborative Care over the past five years, as well as some background information on the child’s family. Social Insurance numbers and financial information were not included.

Based on consultations with police investigators, it has been determined that the risk of any potential breach of patient confidentiality is low due to the three-step password security measures already in place on the stolen laptop.

The Region employee immediately notified supervisors about the theft, as well as the Calgary Police Service. The Region has also consulted with Alberta Health and Wellness and Alberta Children’s Services, as well as the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, which will be undertaking an investigation into the matter.

The Collaborative Mental Health Department provides services and assessments to children under the age of six. Its therapists work directly within the community and require laptops to access information that is necessary to provide services. Laptops are commonly used to store information in order to avoid the need for multiple paper files.

Although the Region had security measures in place on the stolen laptop, it continually reviews its security procedures to ensure it keeps up with new technologies. The Region is now in the process of implementing encryption software and other technology to provide even higher security standards for the laptops used by the Collaborative Mental Health Department’s 12 therapists. Other Region laptops used outside of secure Region facilities will also receive these planned security upgrades.

The Region has been working collaboratively with Alberta Children’s Services to ensure all of the affected individuals and their families/caregivers have been accurately identified and notified of the incident. The laptop database may indicate involvement with some children by the local Child and Family Services Authority arising from referrals between the Region and Alberta Children’s Services.

Notification letters are being mailed and the Region is currently contacting all active patients. As an added precaution, the Region has notified Canada’s major credit reporting agencies and is providing all affected individuals with information from these agencies that will assist them in filing a fraud alert, should they wish to do so.