Thousands of Bay Area Kaiser members are finding out their personal information has been compromised.
Officials for Kaiser say someone stole a storage device with details of about 15,500 Northern California patients -- about 9,000 of them from the Bay Area.
The device includes patients' names, medical numbers, and medical treatment information but not Kaiser says include social security numbers or financial information. Some of the information was password protected but it was not encrypted, the Chronicle reported.
The information was on an external hard drive that -- for some reason -- a Kaiser employee had in her car. Thieves broke into the vehicle, which was parked at her Sacramento home, and took the device. The employee was allowed to work with the data, the hospital says, but she broke the rules by using her own storage device. Kaiser has fired the employee for violating their policy on secure data storage.
A Kaiser representative says the theft presents "a low risk to our patients." The hospital has notified affected patients.
This is not the first time Kaiser has been in the news bcause of a security breach. State health regulators slapped the company's Bellflower Hospital with a $250,000 fine for snooping on the records of octomom Nadya Suleman.
That fine was a result of a law enacted as a after a suit involving privacy violations at UCLA Medical Center. Employees of that hospital were caught looking at the medical records of Farrah Fawcett, Britney Spears, California First Lady Maria Shriver and other celebrities.
Kaiser has set up the following numbers to help deal with calls from patients who are worried about the breach:
Medicare patients: 800.443.0815
Hearing impaired: 800.777.1370