HCA, Nashville, said burglars broke into a regional office and stole 10 computers containing names and Social Security numbers for thousands of patients treated at its hospitals between 1996 and 2006. The company is not divulging the location of the office to avoid tipping off the burglars to the personal data on the computers, each of which is password-protected, HCA spokesman Jeff Prescott said. The computers contain 15,000 to 18,000 files with information on Medicare and Medicaid patients who have uncollected co-pays and deductibles. Such information is reported to the CMS and retained by the company for 10 years while Medicare cost reports are finalized, Prescott said. A small number of the files include DRG information. The patients were treated at HCA hospitals in eight states: Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Washington. HCA has set up a toll-free telephone number for patients to call to learn if their personal information has been compromised. Details are available on the company's Web site, hcahealthcare.com. The company also is accelerating efforts already underway to encrypt its data and to ensure secure Internet file transfers, Prescott said. -- by Vince Galloro
HCA reports theft of 10 computers with patient data
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