Company promises medical records management improvements
Officials for a Canada-based healthcare organization said they have launched an investigation into the medical records management practices at one of its hospitals after health information was found on the street in Chilliwack, British Columbia.
Three paper records from the local hospital were discovered by a citizen shortly after a garbage pickup in September, according to Global News Online. The documents included a "Team Report" for one section of the hospital. Information contained in the report included names, ages, admission dates and diagnoses for 27 patients.
"The confidentiality of patients is paramount and there's a number of privacy regulations around things like medical records, so if somebody removed that and it's showing up on the street, that's a serious problem for Fraser Health and they would need to investigate that," University of British Columbia professor Robert Smith told the news website.
An official for the hospital told Global News Online that such records should not have left the hospital, which has led to the belief that an employee improperly took them home.
The organization does have policies and measures in place for data protection, medical records management and the destruction of paper documents, but it does not appear any were followed. According to the report, documents are usually collected in secure bins and later shredded.
"[The hospital] will be reviewing its procedures relating to the disposal of patient information to ensure that something like this does not happen again," the hospital said.
In the U.K., the Information Commissioner's Office recently called for required data protection audits as a way for improving organizations' practices. Healthcare could especially benefit from mandated audits, according to Information Commissioner Christopher Graham, as many of the incidents dealt with by his agency involve healthcare providers.