State of Indiana now holds 50,000+ abandoned medical files
The Indiana attorney general's office says it is now combing through thousands of dumped medical records from local dental clinics.
Eyewitness News recovered the files earlier this week on the south side of Indianapolis, where 13 Investigates found boxes full of patient files dumped in a church recycling bin.
The 64 boxes of documents contain files on almost 7,000 patients, and each file contains personal information such as names, addresses, social security numbers, credit card numbers, x-rays and detailed medical information.
"I'm shocked to say the least," said Ben Moses, after WTHR found his file and returned it to him. "There's a lot of information in there!"
Ben and all of the other patients affected were all customers of Comfort Dental offices in Kokomo and Marion. 13 Investigates found both of those offices are now closed after their dentist, Joseph Beck, lost his dental license in 2011 due to fraudulent billing practices. Legal experts say Beck could still be held legally responsible for failing to protect his patients' privacy.
Investigators from the attorney general's office came to Eyewitness News Tuesday afternoon to gather all of the records recovered by WTHR. They are now inspecting the files, and the AG's office says it's a job that could take several weeks.
Each file will be logged and investigators will try to determine why the private records were dumped in a public place instead of being destroyed.
"You never just leave them out in the open," said deputy attorney general Abby Kuzma. "It's never OK to throw them somewhere where they can be accessible to people that shouldn't see them."
Failing to protect patient records is a violation of both state and federal law, and can result in penalties that exceed $1 million.
More medical files abandoned
It's not the first time something like this has happened, according to the attorney general's office. 13 Investigates has learned the AG's office currently holds more than 50,000 medical files that have been abandoned by doctors, dentists, clinics and other medical facilities.
State law allows the attorney general to seize and secure abandoned medical records. The documents can then be stored or returned to individual patients. After three years of storage, the records may be destroyed.
In addition to the documents from Comfort Dental, abandoned medical records currently maintained by the state include files from the following providers (time period of the abandoned records is included in parenthesis):
Dr. Patsy Webberhunt (1998-2002)
Dr. Evangelina Marquez (2000-2010)
Franklin Open MRI (2002-2008)
The Grey Clinic (2003-2004)
Dr. Jerome Herrberg (1990-2009)
Dr. Elmer Manalo (2000-2008)
Nurse-Midwife Birthing Center (1991-2011)
The files are locked in a state warehouse, and if any of those records are yours, you are entitled to get them back.
Consumers can complete a request form to see if the AG's office has their abandoned medical records. Erin Reece, a consumer protection spokeswoman for the attorney general's office, said the Comfort Dental files must be processed before they will be available to patients. Due to the large number of records recovered, she did not know how long it would take to complete that process.
"We consider this an ongoing investigation," she said.
Download the Abandoned Records Request Form or request the form be mailed to you by calling 1-800-382-5516.
Consumers that file a formal request will receive notification by mail to confirm whether or not the individual's personal records are being held by the state.
Are you concerned that your health privacy has been violated? File a report here.