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Harris Health System Notifies Patients of Privacy Breach

​HOUSTON, Texas (Feb. 28, 2020) — Harris Health System is notifying 2,298 patients about a potential privacy breach that occurred Dec. 30, 2019. Two envelopes containing 143 pages of protected health information were lost while being transported to Ben Taub Hospital for scanning and archiving in Harris Health’s electronic medical record. The envelopes are believed to have contained information from patients seen at Gulfgate Health Center between Dec. 9, 2019 and Dec. 27, 2019.

“We believe the breach includes information for about 25 patients; however, we are not able to determine the specific patients affected,” says Carolynn R. Jones, chief compliance and risk officer, Harris Health System. “Out of an abundance of caution and to best protect patient privacy, we are notifying a much larger patient group who were seen in the three weeks immediately prior to the loss.”

Upon identifying the envelopes were missing, Harris Health staff conducted a search by canvassing the transportation route taken and were unable to recover the material.

Harris Health believes that the protected health information likely included Social Security numbers, full names, dates of birth, addresses, telephone numbers, diagnoses, tests results, insurance information, medication information, and provider information. Although Harris Health has no proof or belief at this time that anyone improperly used or disclosed the information involved, it is important that notified individuals consider taking appropriate steps to monitor and safeguard their personal identity. Those steps include the following:

1. Monitoring activity on existing personal/financial accounts.

2. Requesting copies of credit reports from one or more of the three national credit reporting agencies. Affected individuals may obtain one free credit report from each of the three reporting agencies at one time so that a comparison may be made, or requests can be spread out over 12 months so that an affected individual can have an updated report every three to four months. Individuals may only receive one free copy of a personal credit report from each of the three reporting agencies in a twelve month period. Individuals should review the information to identify any accounts that may have been established without their knowledge.

Contact Information for Credit Reporting Agencies (to request a copy of your credit report):

Experian – (888) 397-3742 or
Transunion – (800) 888-4213 or
Equifax – (877) 322-8229 or

3. If you identify any activity that occurred without your knowledge, contact the company or the companies involved. Those companies may require you to provide them with copies of a Federal Trade Commissions (FTC) Identity Theft Affidavit.

Harris Health values its patients’ right to privacy regarding their care and is contacting potentially affected patients. Harris Health is providing patients with call center assistance for questions related to the breach, and is providing free credit monitoring service to the affected individuals for one year.

Due to this incident, Harris Health immediately revised its processes and procedures regarding the transportation of protected health information from its clinics, including but not limited to Gulfgate Health Center to Ben Taub Hospital to better protect patient privacy. Harris Health also took appropriate corrective action with regards to the employee involved. Finally, Harris Health will continue to take steps to prevent a similar breach from occurring in the future, including: requiring employees to complete privacy education annually; and investigating privacy complaints and incidents.

Please call 1‐888‐979‐2323 for more information if you believe you may have been affected by the breach.