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Stanford Hospital patient data landed online after a series of missteps

The New York Times, October 6, 2011

Private medical data for nearly 20,000 emergency room patients at California's prestigious Stanford Hospital were exposed to public view for nearly a year because a billing contractor's marketing agent sent the electronic spreadsheet to a job prospect as part of a skills test, the hospital and contractors confirmed this week. The applicant then sought help by unwittingly posting the confidential data on a tutoring Web site. In an e-mail sent to a victim of the breach, the billing contractor, Joe Anthony Reyna, president of Multi-Specialty Collection Services in Los Angeles, explained that his marketing vendor, Frank Corcino, had received the data directly from Stanford Hospital, converted it to a new spreadsheet and then forwarded it to a woman he was considering for a short-term job. The job applicant apparently was challenged to convert the spreadsheet -- which included names, admission dates, diagnosis codes and billing charges -- into a bar graph and charts, Stanford Hospital officials said.