North Carolina's Hospice of Alamance-Caswell and LifePath Home Health recently announced that approximately 5,370 current and former patients or their next of kin have been notified that their personal information may have been exposed when the hospice's main office building was broken into on February 24, 2013 (h/t Healthcare IT News).

The thieves apparently discharged fire extinguishers in the office, left empty beers cans behind, took empty needles and syringes -- and stole three laptops. While patient databases stored on the laptops were fully encrypted, the laptops also contained unencrypted emails containing patient information. The laptops have not been recovered.

The perpetrators also had access to rooms containing paper medical and billing records, though there's no indication that the records were accessed. Two 19-year-old suspects have been arrested by the Burlington, N.C. Police Department.

Affected patients or their next of kin are being advised to place a fraud alert with credit bureaus and are being offered a year of free credit monitoring. Anyone with questions regarding the breach is advised to call (800) 588-8879.

"Hospice of Alamance Caswell understands the importance of safeguarding our patients' personal information and takes that responsibility very seriously," hospice executive director Peter Barcus said in a statement. "We will do all we can to work with our patients or their loved ones whose personal information may have been compromised and help them work through the process."