Cottage Notifies Additional Patients of Possible Data Disclosure


July 11, 2014


Cottage Health System has learned that additional patients may have been impacted by a security incident discovered in December 2013. The incident may have resulted in the disclosure of protected health information for certain patients treated at Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital, Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Hospital, and Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital between approximately February 20, 2009 and December 2, 2013.

On December 2, 2013 Cottage discovered that electronic security protections were disabled from one of its servers, without Cottage’s knowledge, resulting in the exposure of certain information stored on the server. At this time, there is no evidence to suggest that anyone has used the information contained on this server in any way.
At the time the security incident was discovered, Cottage believed that the potentially exposed files contained the information of approximately 32,500 patients, including the name, address, date of birth, and very limited protected health information for some patients related to diagnosis, lab results, and procedures performed. The files did not include any Social Security numbers, driver's license numbers, health insurance numbers, bank account numbers or any other financial information.
Cottage immediately removed the server from service and conducted a review of all servers to ensure that appropriate security measures are in place. Cottage has continued to conduct a thorough audit of its security protocols, and has implemented additional measures with the goal of preventing this type of event from occurring in the future.
Cottage recently discovered that approximately 18,000 additional patients, beyond the initial 32,500 notified in December 2013, also may have been impacted by the data exposure. 
Cottage has mailed a letter to each patient impacted by this security incident, explaining the disclosure details and providing a toll-free phone number to assist those who have questions. In an abundance of caution, Cottage is offering access to identity restoration services through ID Experts® to assist the impacted population in the unlikely event that any exposed information may be misused.  ID Experts® is a health-care focused response vendor that has been awarded the American Hospital Association’s exclusive endorsement for response services. 
“We deeply regret this incident. Cottage takes its obligation to protect health information very seriously and is taking aggressive steps to safeguard against this type of incident in the future,” said Steve Fellows, Executive Vice President, COO and Chief Compliance Officer at Cottage. “We want to assure our patients that we are doing a thorough review and have systems in place to address their concerns. The security vulnerability was unintentional, and we have no reason to suspect that the limited data exposed might be misused.”
Patients with questions regarding whether their protected health information may have been exposed may contact ID Experts® at 1-877-846-7856.