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Chicago law firm sues Advocate Medical Group over theft of patient information

Published: Friday, Sept. 6, 2013 4:35 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Sept. 9, 2013 10:34 a.m. CDT

DOWNERS GROVE – A Chicago-based law firm filed a class action suit Thursday against Advocate Medical Group on behalf of millions of patients whose privacy and medical information were compromised by the alleged theft of four computers at an administrative office in July.

Advocate Medical Group is based in Downers Grove.

The Chicago law firm brought the action on behalf of a Northbrook mother and her daughter who were patients of Advocate and whose personal information was allegedly maintained at Advocate Medical Group offices in Park Ridge. The lawsuit alleges that the health care group was negligent in protecting private data and failed to use encryption and other basic security measures on behalf of its patients, according to a press release from the law firm.

“In this age of advanced technology, Advocate had to realize that its unorthodox methodology for maintaining important and private data posed a risk to the safety and security of their patients,” Clifford Law Offices senior partner Robert A. Clifford said in a statement. “Equally disturbing is the fact that an organization like Advocate would have the private and confidential information of some four million patients stored in an unencrypted environment and saved to the computers’ hard drives."

Patients were informed by letter last month that their privacy was compromised when four computers containing patients’ information, including names, addresses, dates of birth and Social Security numbers, were allegedly stolen from administrative offices on Touhy Avenue in the northwest suburb.

Although full medical records were not on the computers, medical diagnoses, service codes and health insurance information were kept on the computers.

“We deeply regret any inconvenience this incident has caused our patients who have entrusted us with their care," Advocate Health Care’s Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Marketing Kelly Jo Golson said in a statement Friday. "Although we are unable to comment specifically on active litigation matters, we want to reassure our patients that we do not believe the data was targeted and we have no information that leads us to believe that the information has been misused.”

Advocate Medical Group’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kevin McCune said in a statement last month that the 4.03 million patients possible affected are being notified and are being providing free credit monitoring and identity theft protection. AMG is also taking steps to reduce the possibility of this happening again, including the addition of 24/7 security personnel at the Park Ridge facility as well as new technical safeguards.

Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove is part of the Advocate health system.

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