HAYDEN - Hospice of North Idaho settled with the federal government and agreed to pay $50,000 because of a stolen laptop it lost containing patient information.
Hospice settled with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services'office of civil rights, which will receive the funds. Hospice reported the theft to the office as required by law, and conducted an internal investigation.
In a news release Thursday, Hospice said there is no evidence that patient information was accessed following the theft.
Amanda Miller, a Hospice spokeswoman, said employees bring laptops to patients' homes.
"In the summer of 2010, an employee's vehicle was broken into, and their laptop was stolen," she said. "While the thief was apprehended, the laptop was never recovered, hence all the steps Hospice of North Idaho took in case of malicious activity."
Miller said the $50,000 will be coming out of Hospice's operational budget.
"As an organization, we have looked at our current operations and found ways to save money," she said.
For example, Hospice recently consolidated two office spaces into one, a move that will save it about $30,000 in 2013, she said.
Patients who could have been affected were identified, contacted, and offered credit monitoring, and families of deceased patients were offered family support through the assignment of a personal recovery advocate, Hospice said.
Hospice has hired industry experts in the areas of information technology and human resources, replacing the outsourced services employed during the time of the laptop theft.
It has increased security measures on all equipment containing patient information and adopted stronger security policies and procedures to better protect patient information.
Hospice is in compliance with all federal regulations and is conducting ongoing education and training of staff on a regular basis.
"All health-care agencies, including nonprofit agencies, are accountable to the same regulations," said Hospice of North Idaho vice president Kim Ransier.
Hospice said the settlement amount is significantly less than the standard penalties imposed.
"The theft of the laptop was out of our hands, but the measures we have taken since then to ensure the security and privacy of our patients' information have been numerous," said Brenda Wild, Hospice of North Idaho board president. "We take this incident very seriously."