Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson's office on Thursday sued a collection agency that works with two hospitals in the state, saying it did not keep health care records for tens of thousands of patients confidential.

The lawsuit against Accretive Health Inc., a Chicago-based agency, claims an investigation revealed Accretive had access to patient data through contracts with two Minnesota hospital systems - Fairview Health Services and North Memorial Health Care - and used that data to assess patients' risk of becoming hospitalized.

The lawsuit comes after an Accretive employee had a laptop stolen that contained the data of 23,500 patients at the hospitals.

The attorney general's office claims Accretive violated state and federal health privacy laws, and state collection and consumer protection laws. The lawsuit seeks an order that would require Accretive to tell patients what information it has on them, what information it lost, where it sent the information, and why it has the information in the first place.
 
Francesca Luthi, a spokesperson at Accretive, said the company will work with the state to resolve the matter and already has improved its security procedures.

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