by Leo Castaneda & Megan Wood | inewsource

Theft of patient information is an expensive and growing problem for health care providers that range from big hospitals to small community clinics.

And while breaches affecting tens of millions of customers tend to gather all the headlines, the problem is no less serious for the more than 30,000 patients in San Diego County whose records have been compromised since 2010.

Information analyzed by inewsourceshows at least five health care providers in San Diego County had patient data exposed in that time period. Most of the providers either failed to respond to repeated inewsource calls for comment or declined to be interviewed about the incidents. One directed inewsource to a written statement.

Patient records are valuable to thieves because they allow them to use and create new credit cards, file false tax returns and even commit medical fraud. The breaches can occur in a variety of ways, from relatively sophisticated online infiltration to low-tech theft of an unwatched laptop computer.

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