MORENO VALLEY, Calif. -

An investigation was underway Tuesday to find the person responsible for stealing a computer from Riverside County Regional Medical Center in Moreno Valley that contained personal information on 563 patients.

``Protecting sensitive patient information is a golden rule in healthcare,'' said Jan Remm, assistant administrator for RCRMC. ``We apologize for the inconvenience this incident has caused our patients.''

Data files loaded onto the laptop contained the names, birth dates, medical record numbers and test results of patients who received electromyograms, which detect possible physical abnormalities by recording the electrical activity of nerves and muscles, Remm said.

Sheriff's investigators were reviewing hospital surveillance tapes in the hope of identifying the party involved in taking the computer from a hospital procedure room last week, according to RCRMC.

``We have no reason to believe the computer is missing because of the
patient information it contained,'' Remm said. ``But our job is to safeguard
patients' privacy, and that's what we are focused on doing.''

Hospital administrators said they were taking steps to prevent patient
data from being compromised in the future, using encryption technology and by securing laptops to carts in which equipment is carried.

Patients with concerns about the data breach were encouraged to call
RCRMC at (877) 500-1255.