Novant: Private data was potentially exposed
Affected patients will be getting letters in the mail.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Representatives with Novant Health have announced that some protected health information may have been disclosed due to the wrong configuration of an online tracking tool.
The hospital system will begin mailing letters to some of its patients following possible disclosure.
Novant Health launched a promotional campaign in March of 2020 to connect more patients to the Novant Health MyChart patient portal for virtual visits and provide increased accessibility to counter the limitations of in-person care, according to a press release.
This campaign involved Facebook advertisements and a Meta (Facebook parent company) tracking pixel placed on the Novant Health website to help understand the success of those efforts on Facebook, they said.
A pixel is a piece of code that organizations commonly use to measure activity and experiences on their website. In this case, the pixel was configured incorrectly and may have allowed certain private information to be transmitted to Meta from the Novant Health website and MyChart portal.
Immediately upon becoming aware that the pixel had the capability to transmit unintended information to Meta, Novant Health representatives say they disabled and removed the pixel as a precaution and began an investigation to learn whether, and to what extent, information was transmitted.
Based on that investigation, Novant Health determined on June 17, 2022, that it was possible sensitive information might have been disclosed to Meta, depending upon a user’s activity within the Novant Health website and MyChart portal.
This information potentially included an impacted patient’s: demographic information such as email address, phone number, computer IP address, and contact information entered into Emergency Contacts or Advanced Care Planning; and information such as appointment type and date, physician selected, button/menu selections, and/or content typed into free text boxes. The information did not include Social Security numbers or other financial information unless it was typed into a free text box by the user.
The letter sent to each patient will specifically state whether such financial information may have been involved.
Based on its investigation, Novant Health is unaware of any improper use or attempted use of any patient information by Meta or any other third party, they said.
According to Facebook’s Terms and Conditions, they have policies and filters that block sensitive personal data and do not incorporate that information into their Ad Manager. However, to be safe and transparent, Novant Health is sending letters to all potentially impacted patients, including some who are patients of independent physicians and facilities that use the Novant Health MyChart medical record.
Novant Health has also implemented more structure, governance and policies around the use of pixels.
New Hanover Regional Medical Center patients are not impacted by this incident.
In addition to the resources shared, patients may call Novant Health at 704-561-6950 or visit www.novanthealth.org/pixel.
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