Paper records continue to be problematic. An Illinois psychiatrist reported to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) that the medical records of 10,500 patients were stored in the basement of a house that he rented to an individual for at least four years.

The tenant was provided a key to the basement by the psychiatrist’s wife, who asked the tenant to let workmen into the house to complete projects. When she did so, she discovered the records (boxes stored in the basement) and later notified the OCR and the local news station. According to the tenant, the records included patients’ names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, diagnoses, what they were being treated for and the medications prescribed, which encompassed the treatment of these patients by the psychiatrist.

The psychiatrist later reported the breach to the OCR. The facts of this case remind us of how important it is to secure paper records as well as electronic records to avoid unauthorized access, use or disclosure of sensitive health information.