Hard drive with 650 patients’ records missing since August: Alberta health officials

The Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton.
The Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton. Courtesy: Google Maps

Alberta Health Services says a computer hard drive that contained the personal health information of about 650 patients has been missing since August.

The agency says the external drive vanished from a cardiac outpatient clinical lab at the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute in Edmonton.

It says the disappearance could be linked to a theft at the lab on Aug. 5, a holiday Monday, but the drive wasn’t discovered missing until a few weeks later.

The external drive was not encrypted, as mandatory, and did not have password protection.

AHS says information includes patient names, gender, dates of birth, physician names and medical record numbers.

READ MORE: AHS blamed for breach that saw thousands of patient files improperly accessed

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Alberta Health Services is notifying patients whose details are on the drive.

“We know this news will be stressful for those affected and we apologize for any worry this may cause.

“We would like to note that the nature of the data on the drive would make it very difficult for someone to use just on its own,” Dr. Mark Joffe, vice-president and medical director for northern Alberta, said in a release Monday.

“Certain mandatory encryption policies were not followed in this case and that is unacceptable. The policies were reviewed with staff to prevent any future issues.”

READ MORE: Thousands of Alberta patient files inappropriately accessed by former AHS employee

Joffe said changes have been made to security measures and building access on statutory holidays to “prevent future issues with inappropriate access to the lab.”

Individuals receiving letters will be able to contact a dedicated call line available through Health Link to ask any questions they may have.