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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

OBITUARY: Sherrold Haddad brought giant Canadian flag to Surrey car dealership, built community

‘An amazing man, business person and community leader,’ friend Bruce Hayne posted to Facebook

COVID-19: Daily update on the pandemic in Surrey, White Rock, Delta and beyond

MARCH 28: Delta council passes bylaw to fine people who don’t socially distance

White Rock council members stand by decision to close pier

Minimal push-back over closure to minimize chance of spreading COVID-19 virus

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

B.C. Ferries passengers staying away, as asked, during COVID-19 pandemic

Ferry corporation says ridership down 70-80 per cent over the last week and a half

Sewers stitch masks to free up supplies for front-line health-care workers

“We have little old ladies sewing up a storm,” said Joan Davis

Experts weigh in on best handling of groceries during COVID-19 pandemic

Study suggests the virus can live for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on plastic

COVID-19 world update: Enforceable quarantine in NYC?; France orders 1 billion masks

Spain warns EU’s future at stake; New York governor calls Trump’s idea ‘federal declaration of war

Blue ribbons popping up along streets in Abbotsford in praise of B.C. healthcare workers

Healthcare worker’s family starts local trend of morale support

Earth Hour 2020 kicks off online Saturday night

Action moves online due to COVID-19

B.C. COVID-19 cases rise 92 to 884, one more death, 81 in care

Outbreak action underway in 12 long-term care homes

B.C. veterinarians want to smooth the fur of COVID-19-worried pet owners

Vets expect to continue giving your fur buddies the help they need while social distancing

Most Read