7,800 Seton hospital patients face identity theft threat

2/19/2007 – AUSTIN — About 7,800 insured patients who were treated at Seton hospital system facilities since July 2005 are being warned to watch for signs of identity theft after a laptop containing personal information was stolen last week.

The Seton Family of Hospitals said the computer was stolen from an office in the system’s information services department in Austin.

Greg Hartman, senior vice president of marketing and planning for the Seton system, said the computer doesn’t contain patient health information. It might contain names, birthdays and Social Security numbers of uninsured patients who went to Seton-owned emergency rooms, outpatient services and area health clinics since July 1, 2005.

Hartman said in a story in today’s online edition of the Austin American-Statesman that the information isn’t easily available because it is protected by a “complicated password protocol.”

He said the theft was caught on camera and the video has been given to Austin police. He said a film projector also was taken from the building, which only can be accessed by people with security badges.

“It’s a very difficult situation,” Hartman said. “We’re very hopeful we can catch this thief.”

System officials used the data stored on the computer to try to get payment through Medicaid, Medicare or charity programs, Hartman said.

Seton plans to send letters beginning this week to affected patients.

The hospital system has set up a toll-free number for anyone seeking more information: 888-325-3456.

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