An employee with the state Department of Health’s Aging Division accidentally sent an unencrypted email that contained private information for more than 2,000 seniors who’d received care at the Carbon County Senior Services, the department announced Wednesday, though officials stressed there was a low risk of any “harm” from the mistake.
“While the person receiving the email was authorized to have the information, because the email was not encrypted, there is a chance protected health information could have been viewed, read or saved by an unauthorized individual during transmission,” Jeri Hendricks, a privacy and security administrator at the department, said in a statement.
The mistake was reported the same day — May 1 — and the department began an investigation. No social security numbers or banking information was included in the email. According to the department, details included “name, date of birth, phone number, county, zip code and Senior Assistant Management System identification number,” which is the method senior centers in Wyoming use to track what services they provide in order to seek reimbursement from the state.
Kim Deti, the spokeswoman for the department, said the email was sent from someone within the department to someone at the Carbon County Senior Services. The health department employee “didn’t click the encryption thing” before sending the message.
She stressed that no medical information was included in the email, though the data that was attached still compromised “protected health information.” The department is required to provide notice when this sort of thing happens, she added.
Letters have been sent to those affected, the department said in its statement, and each senior will be given the chance to “enroll at no cost in an identity protection service for one year.”
“While we believe at this point the potential for harm to these individuals was quite low, we are taking this situation seriously and responding with extra care,” Lisa Osvold, the senior administrator for the department’s aging division, said in a statement.