STHS Report Inadvertently Emailed to Unintended Recipient
On June 7, 2021, the South Texas Health System (STHS) notified affected individuals that a report containing limited personal information was inadvertently emailed to an unknown recipient. At present, STHS has no evidence of any actual or attempted misuse of the information contained in this monthly report which identifies patients discharged from our hospitals' emergency departments (EDs).
STHS is committed to excellence in patient care, and, as part of that commitment, we work to ensure that patients who received care or services in our hospitals' EDs are provided discharge instructions. To help with that, an employee generates and emails a monthly report that identifies patients discharged from our hospitals' EDs. On April 8, 2021, STHS learned that, on April 7, 2021, this employee inadvertently misdirected an email attaching the November 2020 report to an unknown recipient. At present, STHS cannot identify the unintended recipient of the email and has no information concerning whether the report has been reviewed or deleted.
The report contained patients' full names, an internal hospital visit number, the date and time patients were discharged from the hospitals' EDs in November of 2020, whether discharge instructions were provided, and information about where patients were discharged. The report did not contain social security numbers, credit card numbers, or other financial information.
Upon discovery of this incident, STHS launched an internal investigation into this matter. STHS attempted to contact the user of the unintended email account to seek destruction of the report, but it has not received a response. STHS is also taking steps to implement appropriate safeguards moving forward to ensure the secure transfer of such reports. STHS is notifying affected patients directly and, due to certain missing or outdated patient contact information, is providing this substitute notice. Although STHS does not believe that this incident will result in any financial harm, STHS encourages its patients to remain vigilant against the potential of identity theft or the misuse of their personal data. To that extent, STHS is providing affected patients with access to 12 months of free internet surveillance and identity restoration services through Experian.
Only individuals who were discharged from STHS hospitals' EDs in November 2020 were included on the report. Such individuals who have concerns, want to determine whether their information was involved, or want to determine if they qualify for the internet surveillance and identity restoration services should call our dedicated assistance line at (877) 736-2221 (toll-free), Monday – Friday, 9 am to 11 pm Eastern Time, and Saturday – Sunday, 11 am to 8 pm Eastern Time.
STHS is committed to providing quality care, including protecting your data, and has policies and procedures in place for protecting and safeguarding personal health information. We sincerely regret any inconvenience this incident may cause our patients, and we encourage patients discharged from STHS hospitals' EDs during November of 2020 to call our dedicated assistance line with any questions.