(WXYZ) — Beaumont Health launched an investigation after discovering a data breach involving nearly 1,200 patients' personal information, including their names, addresses, reason for a hospital visit, and social security numbers, among other things.
The now former employee worked at the Dearborn location and according to Beaumont, is suspected of disclosing the information to an individual working on behalf of a personal injury attorney.
"After an extensive investigation, Beaumont discovered on December 10, 2019 that from February 1, 2017 until October 22, 2019, the former employee accessed and disclosed protected health information without authorization," according to a Beaumont press release.
The 1,182 impacted Beaumont patients were notified of the incident on Friday.
Affected patients have been "provided with best practices to protect their information and have been reminded to remain vigilant in reviewing financial account statement for any fraudulent activity," according to Beaumont.
"For this type of thing to happen, this type of breach, this is extremely egregious," said attorney Arnold Reed, who is a faculty member at Harvard Law's Trial Advocacy Workshop.
Reed said that while this breach appears to be a clear violation of patient privacy through HIPAA, taking legal action against the hospital could be challenging for patients.
“Unless you can prove what we call 'actual damages' then the path to a lawsuit is very difficult. Then you have to prove actual harm," he said.
Beaumont Health said the company "will work closely with law enforcement if they decide to prosecute this former employee." The Michigan Health & Hospital Association was also notified to make sure other hospitals and health systems are aware of the incident. Beaumont said they have also taken steps to improve internal procedures to identify any potential future threats.
The State Grievance Commission is the agency handling this case.
If you think you may have been impacted by this incident, you may call 866-977-0774. This phone number is available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.