Ca: Eastern Health Authority discloses employee improperly accessed 20 patients' records

CBC News reports:

Eastern Health reported Tuesday that an employee inappropriately accessed 20 patient records in a privacy breach.

According to a release from the health authority, the administrative employee has resigned in light of the investigation.

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A statement linked from Eastern Health’s home page says:

May 13, 2014 – St. John’s, NL: Eastern Health advised today that it has identified a privacy breach where one of its employees has inappropriately accessed 20 patient records. The employee, who provided administrative support at one of the city hospitals, has resigned from the organization in light of the investigation.

“On behalf of Eastern Health, I want to publicly apologize to the patients whose privacy has been breached,” said Don Keats, interim President and CEO of Eastern Health. “We believe it is important to publicly discuss these privacy breaches, to create further awareness among all health care workers of the importance of maintaining the privacy of our patients, residents and clients.”

Eastern Health has identified all the patients who have been impacted by the deliberate breach, and has established a process for contacting the patients directly to advise of the breach. The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner has also been advised.

As part of Eastern Health’s commitment to help protect the privacy and confidentiality of the health information it has in its custody, employees sign an oath of confidentiality and must complete a Personal Health Information Act education program. The organization also has a number of policies which focus on privacy, including a Privacy and Confidentiality Policy and a Privacy Breach Management Policy. Additionally, Eastern Health undertakes random audits of its employees’ access to personal health information to help ensure the appropriate use and access of that information. In 2012, Eastern Health introduced new auditing software that strengthened its system called Software Audit Management Package (SAM). This new software allows Eastern Health to perform real time audits based on rules it has determined such as identifying links between employee and patient names, street addresses and the length of time an employee has accessed a record. As an additional security feature, should an employee access a health record, a prompt will ask the employee whether he/she should be looking into that particular record. Furthermore, Eastern Health performs additional audits should concerns be raised.

Eastern Health continues to provide privacy education and awareness activities, including holding an annual Privacy Awareness Week, and on a bi-weekly basis sends notices to its employees of their responsibility to help protect the privacy of patients, clients and residents.

“Eastern Health has a zero tolerance for any deliberate breach of patient privacy and/or of the organization’s privacy and confidentiality policy,” said Beverley Clarke, Vice President Responsible for Privacy. “We recognize that it is discouraging when these breaches occur, but we want to assure the people we serve that we hold our responsibility as a custodian of personal health information with the highest regard.”

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