Unauthorized employees allegedly access 419 ER patient records at Virginia Mason Memorial

Yakima, Wash.-based Virginia Mason Memorial notified 419 emergency room patients last week of a privacy violation, according to the Yakima Herald-Republic.

In January, an internal audit at the hospital revealed 21 employees had inappropriately accessed a total of 419 patient records since October. The records may have included addresses, Social Security numbers and medical information, according to the Yakima Herald-Republic. The records did not contain financial information.

Virginia Mason Memorial officials have not determined any malicious intent or targeting of particular patients by the employees. "[There is] no evidence that the information's being used in an improper way," Trent Belliston, chief compliance and privacy officer at Virginia Mason Memorial, told the Yakima Herald-Republic. "We believe this to be a case of snooping, or individuals who were bored."

The hospital is working with an outside firm to investigate the breach and to determine whether patient information surfaces on the black market. No information has been misused so far, according to the Yakima Herald-Republic.

When the privacy violations were discovered in January, the hospital revoked all 21 employees' access to patient records. Virginia Mason Memorial CEO Russ Myers told the Yakima Herald-Republic he could not say whether the employees have been terminated or disciplined, due to labor and confidentiality laws.

The hospital has purchased two years of credit monitoring services for all of the affected patients.

Editor's note: Becker's Hospital Review reached out to Virginia Mason Memorial for comment and will update as more information becomes available.

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