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

UPDATE: One dead, two in hospital after Highway 1 crash near Bridal Falls

Closure expected to last hours, while drivers are told to take detours

Pawnshops support curbing crime with digital database

At least two pawnshops in Penticton are in support of upgrading to a digital list of items purchased

B.C.’s devastating 2017 wildfire season revisited in new book

British Columbia Burning written by CBC journalist Bethany Lindsay

Walk to end abuse for those who can’t

SOWINS’s Debbie Scarborough points to the lethal potential in intimate partner abuse

Evacuation orders lifted around Osoyoos Lake

An evacuation order lifted for 15 properties around lake

Buy a lotto ticket and be a hero to B.C. burn victims

The Hometown Heroes Lottery is offering up seven grand prizes including a home in Lake Country

UPDATE: Grass fire burns near Mission Hill winery

Smoke can be seen around West Kelowna as a fire gets underway near Mission Hill

Vernon SAR manager wins national volunteer award

A Vernon Search and Rescue manager was one of those honoured for her dedication and innovation.

Giant beer tanks arrive in new B.C. home city

Molson Coors tanks finish river journey and move to overland trip in Chilliwack

VIDEO: Pipeline supporters rally across B.C.

Five simultaneous events organized by month-old Suits and Boots lobby group

VIDEO: B.C. woman praises burn fund after boat explosion in 1978

White Rock woman was 16 years old when she was left with second- and third-degree burns

B.C.’s Ryan Craig, Vegas Golden Knights chase history

Local product behind bench for expansion team’s incredible championship run

CP rail workers give strike notice

Employees could walk out as early as Tuesday at 7 p.m. PT

Most Read