Michigan Medicine notifies patients of email information breach

October 19, 2020  //  FOUND IN: News

Michigan Medicine is notifying 1,062 patients about an email that may have exposed their email addresses and health information to others.

Emails containing information about an Inflammatory Bowel Disease event were sent to patients in late September without the blind copy function being used to hide email addresses, so patients’ email addresses were visible to all recipients.

The patient information involved is limited, as the email only included an email address and an invitation for the event. The data did not contain, addresses, phone numbers, Social Security numbers, credit card, debit card, or bank account numbers so the risk of identity theft occurring is extremely low.

General medical records were not in the information that was emailed.

As soon as Michigan Medicine learned of the error, no additional emails were sent. Separate emails were sent to explain the error, and included a request that the recipients delete the prior email.

Affected patients were mailed letters Oct. 16 notifying them of the breach.

“Patient privacy is extremely important to us, and we take this matter very seriously. Michigan Medicine took steps immediately to investigate this matter and is implementing additional safeguards to reduce risk to our patients and help prevent recurrence,” said Jeanne Strickland, Michigan Medicine chief compliance officer. 

To prevent future errors like this, the department involved will be adopting different processes for sending emails to patients. 

Michigan Medicine officials believe the risk of identity theft is low because of the limited information involved. However, it is always recommended to monitor patient insurance statements for any transactions related to care or services that have not actually been received. Patients were sent a list of suggested steps to protect against identity theft.

Affected Michigan Medicine patients are expected to receive letters in the mail notifying them of this incident within the next few days.

Patients who have concerns or questions may call the University of Michigan IBD Program at 734-647-2964 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. or email debratan@med.umich.edu.