The privacy of our patients and their personal information is of utmost importance to us, so we were shocked and saddened that this criminal act touched one of our patients and the entire Seattle Cancer Care Alliance community.
The Alliance cooperated fully with the investigation by the Seattle Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. We were gratified that this unfortunate incident was brought to a close and that Mr. Eric Drew saw justice done. We have expressed our sincere regrets to Mr. Drew, and we wish the best for him as he recovers from his illness.
The Alliance maintains a privacy-issues contact number that is provided to all of our patients. Every patient receives extensive information about privacy matters. Mr. Drew used the privacy number to notify us of his identity theft in December 2003. We placed posters in our lobby during the investigation to provide additional information to our patients and to re-publicize our privacy officer’s contact information. While this did result in questions from some patients, no other related incidents were identified. It should also be noted that the FBI’s investigation did not reveal additional incidents.
The Alliance has always had systems in place to protect our patients’ confidential information. Our policies and practices fully meet the requirements of state and federal government regulations.
In particular, the Alliance does not use a patient’s Social Security number as his or her primary source of identification. Our patients are assigned a unique medical-record number that is not based on their Social Security number. However, the Social Security number is required for most health-care billing, including Medicare, and it serves as a secondary form of identity validation for patient safety.
We are confident in the measures the organization has taken to further secure our patient-information systems. We continue our efforts to limit and reduce the visibility of patients’ Social Security numbers by reviewing and revising information systems and paper forms that contain this information.
Regarding Dateline’s inquiry about Mr. Drew’s prognosis at the time of his diagnosis, we can say that in general, adult patients diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia have a survival rate of between 5 and 40 percent, depending upon the type of treatment they receive and other risk factors.