Santa Barbara Public Health Notifying Patients After Employee Accessed Records Without Authorization

Gina Pothoff reports:

Some 260 patients with records in the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department will receive notification letters explaining that a Health Care Center employee illegally accessed their personal health information.

The department announced the unauthorized data breach Wednesday, saying a staff member accessed electronic information for an unapproved academic research project.

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The health department issued the following press release yesterday:

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department has experienced unauthorized access to 260 patient records by a Health Care Center staff member. “The Public Health Department deeply regrets this incident,” said Dr. Takashi Wada, Director of the Department.

Immediately upon learning about the unauthorized access, the Public Health Department initiated an investigation. The investigation revealed that a Health Care Center staff member accessed electronic information for an unapproved academic data research project. “At this point in the investigation, we have no reason to believe any identifying information has been shared outside of our department,” Dr. Wada added. The staff member in this incident has been denied access to any additional patient information.

The Public Health Department is cooperating with the State Department of Health Care Services. Notification letters have been sent to those whose information was inappropriately accessed. Depending upon the nature of each case, credit monitoring has been offered to patients in accordance with the regulations. Unless further information becomes available, no further action by the Public Health Department or the State is anticipated.

“Privacy and security are a priority at the Public Health Department,” noted Dr. Wada. Training has been provided to all staff, high standards are modeled with regard to the confidentiality of personal information and action is taken immediately upon learning of such incidents. As a result of this incident, all Health Care Center staff are being re-trained.

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