Life Flight is sending letters to 842 patients who were transported by the medical service primarily in April, May, and June 2004, to inform them that some of their personal information was inadvertently placed on an employee website where it may have been accessed by individuals outside of Life Flight.
When the issue was discovered, the website was immediately taken down, any patient-related files were deleted, and all remaining files were moved behind a secure firewall. Life Flight officials say this is an isolated situation that has never before occurred in the 35-year history of the storied air rescue program.
There is no evidence that any of the information has been used inappropriately, but Life Flight is taking steps to provide full identity protection for any patient flown during that period who may be affected.
“We take very seriously our responsibility to protect patient information and offer our sincere apology,” said Bill Butts, director of aviation operations for Life Flight. “We’ve looked into this and have taken steps to prevent this from ever happening again.”
The error occurred during the creation of a website for Life Flight employees that contained policy and procedures documents, work schedules, and other employee communication-related information. When files were transferred from the old site to the new one, several folders with some patient information were inadvertently included.
“It’s simply human error,” said Butts. “When the files were migrated to the new site, some information was inadvertently included, and shouldn’t have been.”
Of the 842 patients, 107 had a Social Security number listed. Most patients had their birth date, brief medical information, and city of residence listed. Even though the site was protected by a user name and password, it turned out not to be adequate to prevent some unauthorized individuals from gaining access to it.
Life Flight has sent letters to patients to notify them of the issue and is offering a year of free identity protection service. There were 15 additional patients where no address or other contact information could be found. Patients receiving the letter or patients with questions may call a hotline at 1-877-615-3740 for more information about this incident.