by Amy Crocker

Medical records for around 15,500 Northern California Kaiser patients - 9,000 from the Bay Area - were compromised after an external drive was stolen from a Kaiser employee’s car in December. The theft occurred December 1, was reported by the employee (now fired) on December 8, and reported to the public Tuesday.

Kaiser officials said no social security numbers or financial information was contained on the stolen drive, but names, medical record numbers and possibly ages, genders telephone numbers, addresses and treatment information were.

"The employee was authorized to access the information involved as part of her job - this was not a case involving inappropriate access to Kaiser Permanente's electronic medical records, which are extremely secure," said Kristin Chambers, vice president in charge of compliance and privacy for Kaiser Permanente's Northern California division. "However, the employee's use of the device was unauthorized and violated Kaiser Permanente's strict policies regarding data storage."