Nearly 10,000 People’s Data Were Exposed in Breach at MGH

The incidence occurred in June at MGH when an unauthorized third party accessed data in two computer programs used by researchers.


Photo by Samantha Carey

Besides having an identity crisis, MGH is in the midst of another crisis—a data breach exposing almost 10,000 patients’ information who participated in research studies at the hospital.

The hospital reported on Thursday that an unauthorized third party accessed data in two computer programs used by researchers in the Department of Neurology on June 24. An investigation revealed, during the time between June 10 and June 16, participants’ first and last names, demographic information, date of birth, medical record number, and medical histories were compromised.

Luckily, the breach didn’t include any Social Security numbers, insurance information, financial information, or contact information. The hospital is working to inform patients who have been affected and have provided a toll-free number, 866-904-6219, for those seeking additional details.

“As soon as MGH discovered this incident, it took steps to prevent further unauthorized access and restore the affected research computer applications and databases,” the hospital said in a statement. “MGH also engaged a third-party forensic investigator to conduct a review and has contacted federal law enforcement as a precaution.”

The Globe reported that this is one of the largest breaches involving a Boston-area hospital in some time. The latest being in 2018 when 2,500 patients at Cambridge Health Alliance were notified that their billing information had been accessed by an unauthorized party.

“I think this goes to show you can never be too careful with patient data,” Nilesh Chandra, a Boston-based health care expert at PA Consulting, told the Globe. “Even for highly mature organizations, a privacy centric approach is required in all aspects of clinical and business operations to ensure that patient data is handled securely.”

Earlier this summer, the hospital was ranked number two in the nation in the U.S. News and World Reportsecond only to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. It goes to show that even the best make mistakes sometimes.