Patients' medical billing records missing for 2 years

Health system learned of disappearance when records were returned in March

Patient medical billing records, missing for 2 years, return

WEST READING, Pa. - Reading Health System has put hundreds of patients on notice about the disappearance of their medical billing records.

In a letter sent Tuesday to patients of the former Western Berks Internal Medicine, the health system's chief compliance officer, Kathleen Wetzel, said that three boxes of medical billing records, from Jan. 2, 2009 through June 3, 2010, were taken from the practice, apparently in March 2012, and returned on March 24, 2014.

"The medical billing records," Wetzel said, "contained some or all of the following: patient name, address, telephone number, insurance number, social security number, date of birth, medical practice billing codes and related diagnoses."

"We have every reason to believe that your medical billing information was not disclosed or reviewed by anyone," Wetzel added. "We have examined the boxes and their contents and have not detected signs that the documents were accessed or used."

Still, Western Berks has arranged for one year of free credit monitoring for the affected patients, Wetzel said.

The health system learned of the records' disappearance when it was contacted by a maintenance service vendor on March 24, said Ann Valuch, director of marketing.

The vendor told hospital officials he found the three boxes, containing 1,845 records, at the practice's former office in Spring Township in March 2012 and took them home to keep them safe, never showing them to anyone, said Valuch, adding that the health system continues to investigate the disappearance.

"As part of our investigation, we have taken immediate steps to re-evaluate the safekeeping of our medical billing records," Wetzel said in her letter to patients.

Those steps, Valuch said, include assessing the security risk at all of its group practices, retraining staff on patient privacy laws, and examining methods of retaining and destroying old documents.

Patients with questions about the disappearance of their medical billing records can call 1-877-631-0440 Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. Callers will be asked to provide the following reference number: 9066041514.

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