B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham.

VIP patient snooping among health privacy breaches

Privacy commissioner's report urges health authorities to tighten safeguards

Too many health authority employees inappropriately snoop in patient records and some deliberately disclose sensitive information via social media or cellphones.

That’s one of the most serious types of breaches flagged by B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham in a new report on how the province’s health authorities safeguard privacy.

The report cites “cases of snooping where staff members access records of VIP or other patients out of curiousity or for malicious intent.”

It uncovered four cases in 2013 of staff posting photos of patients to Facebook or Instagram, and three cases of doctors or nurses taking photos.

Another nurse commented on a patient’s health information on Facebook.

“The (privacy commissioner’s office) has serious concern regarding health authority staff deliberately disclosing the sensitive personal information of patients through their own mobile devices and on social media,” the report said.

The report doesn’t break down the number or frequency of incidents between B.C.’s health regions.

Denham’s office has received 200 privacy breach complaints over 10 years from health authorities but suspects that’s just one per cent of the actual number of incidents.

Misdirected faxes were the single most common type of privacy breach identified.

Lost or stolen records or mobile devices were most common among home health and community care programs.

Half of health authorities reported problems with home care workers leaving patient records unsecured in their cars against policy.

Fraser Health told Denham’s office its privacy officers notify affected individuals in almost every privacy breach, in addition to the health region’s CEO.

There is no legal requirement for disclosure in B.C.

Data held by health authorities includes personal identifiers, financial information, health conditions, test results, medication used, as well as information on patients’ physical, mental and emotional status, as well as lifestyle and behaviour.

Denham issued 13 recommendations for action to reduce the risk of future privacy breaches.

Just Posted

B.C. budget will have ‘very little impact’ on poverty, advocates say

New Child Opportunity Benefit and income assistance increases are too small for a large effect

Students donate 5,265 socks to Our Place

The middle school donation drive provides socks to struggling people

Garry oaks come down on Finnerty Road

Saanich road to be widened for two-way bike lanes, sidewalks

Black Press readers share photos of their favourite critters on #LoveYourPetDay

Greater Victoria is raining cats and dogs…and snails and goats

Greater Victoria Wanted List for the week of Feb. 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

70% of Canadians agree with mandatory vaccines for children: poll

The debate for pro and anti vaccinations has heated up after a measles outbreak in Vancouver

Vancouver Island petition to decriminalize all drugs continues to collect signatures

A Courtenay couple is collecting signatures for their petition to decriminalize drugs in Canada

UPDATE: Woman, off-duty cop in critical condition after stabbing outside B.C. elementary school

The officer was interceding in an alleged assault when he and the woman were stabbed

‘A little baloney’ in PM’s claim about solicitor-client privilege on SNC-Lavalin

The Conservatives and NDP want Trudeau to waive that privilege so Wilson-Raybould can offer her side of the story

Proposed edible pot rules are wasteful, would leave products tasteless: critics

When Canada legalized weed last fall, it only allowed fresh or dried bud, oil, plants and seeds

Samsung folding phone is different – but also almost $2,000

But most analysts see a limited market for foldable-screen phones

Most Read