The lawsuit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, says Advocate failed to use encryption and other basic security measures on the four computers stolen from the Park Ridge office July 15.
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The computers contained the addresses, names, social security numbers and dates of birth of some four million patients, Advocate officials said.
Clifford Law Offices filed the lawsuit on behalf of Northbrook resident Pierre Petrich and her daughter, Amara, who were patients of Advocate and whose personal information was maintained at the Park Ridge offices.
"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,” said Robert A. Clifford, senior partner at Clifford Law Offices. “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. There is just no excuse for this negligence, and the harm that this has caused so many, many people is something that could have been avoided had proper precautions been taken.”
The estimated four million patients affected by the breach include those who visited Advocate Medical Group physicians from the early 1990s through July, officials said.
The incident ranks as the second-largest loss of unsecured protected information reported to the Department of Health and Human Services since 2009, the Chicago Tribune reports.
A representative from Advocate said the company "deeply regrets any inconvenience this incident has caused our patients who have entrusted us with out care."
"Although we are unable to comment specifically on active litigation matter, 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 said in a statement.
Advocate Health Care operates 12 hospitals, including Advocate Lutheran General in Park Ridge and Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove. Advocate Medical Group, which is part of the network, includes more than 1,000 doctors and 200 locations, according to their website.