Combining jobs? Creating a white paper workflow? Read this first!
Mailer Accidentally Reveals HIV Status 
Up to 12,000 Patients Affected
The headline above should be a wake-up call for anyone who handles personalized mail containing information the senders or receivers consider private or sensitive. An accidental disclosure can happen to anyone.

Health Plan Privacy Breach

As you can see in the image, letter text from an insurance company bulletin is showing through the envelope window. The visible text reveals the addressee's use of prescription HIV medicine.
Maybe the service provider working for the insurance company uses this envelope for other work they do for the insurer and assumed this content was configured similar to earlier jobs. Or perhaps they use this envelope, with its jumbo-size window, for several clients or applications. In any case, the mailer used an outbound envelope ill-suited for this communication.
Published reports indicate the insurer is unclear about the disclosure's impact. They noted the private information was visible only when the contents shifted inside the envelopes. Mail professionals know contents can shift as the USPS processes mail through machinery, loads material into containers, and transports pallets. It is doubtful the mailing vendor purposely counted on non-shifting contents as a security measure.
We recommend mailers use the time-honored "tap test" to make sure only authorized address contents show through the window at extreme shifted positions.
EDITORS NOTE: Shortly after this privacy breach was announced, another healthcare company suffered a similar problem, again related to sensitive HIV information visible through envelope windows.
Envelope Windows and Privacy
Envelope windows will continue to be exposure risks. In white paper workflows, service providers merge documents from multiple jobs or clients together. Many companies are using this strategy to compensate for lower mail volumes. They combine documents generated from many small jobs and print them in large efficient batches.
Because mail inserting machines allow only one outbound envelope on board at a time, mailers printing documents from mixed jobs must format all the address-bearing pages so addresses align with a fixed window position. Switching to envelopes with large windows can reduce the demand for document reformatting, but can be a perilous practice. A slight change in document layout, often uncommunicated to the mailing services vendor, can compromise privacy or cause delivery problems.
Non-Window Envelopes
Window envelopes aren't the only solution. With iDataPrintâ„¢, mailers can avoid window-related privacy and compliance issues. They simply print the addresses on closed-face envelopes after they insert the material. Windowless envelopes are a great solution for combined print jobs and white paper workflows.
  • No reformatting of client documents to fit envelope windows
  • No folder adjustments to account for variances in vertical address block lineup
  • Allows for landscape-oriented documents
  • Frees up space on documents normally reserved for mailing addresses
  • No concern for shifted contents
  • Simplifies inventory
With our Read, Print, and Verify technology, mailers can reap the efficiency and cost-saving benefits of combining jobs. They need not change their client's documents or worry about accidental privacy issues caused by data showing through envelope windows.
DDS Read, Print, and Verify features a camera used to scan a unique ID number from a document, such as a letter, as an inserting machine feeds paper from the input stack. The DDS system finds the corresponding number in the database downloaded to the DDS controller before beginning the job. It sends the name and address data to an inkjet printer installed on the inserting equipment.
A second camera verifies the printed address matches the ID number on the letter. Document Data Solutions Advanced Tracking Method tracks mailpieces throughout the process, preventing double-stuffed envelopes, missing items, or duplicates. Should the system detect a mismatch or other processing error, the DDS system will stop the equipment, allowing the operator to correct the problem in real time.
Privacy and efficiency aren't the only advantages of closed-face envelope printing. DDS produced an eBook that describes all the benefits. If you haven't received your copy yet, CLICK HERE to get yours at no charge.
Fallout from this privacy breach is ongoing. Patients have already filed at least one lawsuit and the insurance company recently announced offers of cash payments and counseling services. Because the documents revealed personal health information, a HIPAA investigation is likely. We have written before about the negative effects print/mail service providers suffer because of a HIPAA breach. Service providers making these types of errors can lose the account and perhaps other business because of bad publicity.
Any document operation neglecting to audit their exposure to accidental privacy breaches is putting their business, and that of their clients, at unnecessary risk. In hindsight, the mailer in this case would probably agree that implementing measures to prevent errors related to envelope windows would have been a wise investment.
If exposure to accidental errors like these concern you, call us for a free consultation.
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We have developed a team of dedicated professionals to provide unrivaled consulting and custom solutions to help our customers separate their business from their competition and increase profits.
DDS' Vision inspection systems, data collection and management reporting capabilities for piece level verification are helping document centers of all kinds avoid the devastating effects of integrity errors. Our color printing technology is helping print service providers add new revenue streams and expand their businesses.
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