Glitch On State's New COVID-19 Testing Website Displayed Patient's Personal Info

May 7, 2020

https://prd.blogs.nh.gov/dos/hsem/?page_id=8479

The new state website where people can sign up for coronavirus tests got off to a rocky start today. Some visitors to the online portal Thursday morning found the form already filled in – with someone else’s personal info.

When Lizz Boewe heard about the new website, she jumped at the opportunity. Boewe has asthma and she’s been battling a lingering cough and low fever since March. She tried to get a test several weeks back, but couldn’t find one.

The new state government website allows New Hampshire residents in high risk categories or anyone who currently has symptoms to reserve a test at one of five sites around the state. No doctor’s referral is required. Gov. Chris Sununu and state health officials announced the new site Wednesday afternoon in a press conference. Sununu said the site would help greatly expand the pool of people being tested for COVID-19 in the state and further limit the spread of infection.

“This is going to be a very important tool as we go forward,” Sununu said.

The day after Boewe filled out the form online, she got an email from a stranger telling her that her personal info, including her name, date of birth, insurance number, email, and phone number were all being displayed on the website.

“I kind of brushed it off, because I thought it was a scam,” Boewe said.

Twenty minutes later, she got a call from the state public health department telling her it was true.

“And I was just kind of in disbelief,” said Boewe. “I was like, ‘Oh, okay. Alright. That’s interesting.’”

Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Jake Leon apologized for the error in a statement and said Boewe was the only person whose info was inadvertently made public. The website was taken down briefly Thursday morning and Leon says the problem has since been fixed.

“Protecting the personal information of residents we serve is our top priority, especially during the worldwide pandemic,” wrote Leon.

According to Leon, more than 2,200 people submitted requests for testing in the hours after the website launched.

As for Boewe, she’s taking the news in stride.

“It’s a new website; these things happen," she said. "Yeah, I’m upset about it. But there’s no point in being wicked angry about it."

Ultimately, Boewe says the website worked. After setting up her appointment online she was tested for COVID-19 Thursday afternoon.