August 15, 2014 5:47 pm

Private health records faxed to Calgary business, despite complaints

CALGARY- A Calgary man says he continues to receive other people’s private health information via fax—despite alerting Alberta Health Services about the problem.

Scott Chisolm’s office fax machine has received sensitive records since 2008.

“I’ve seen everything from the results of pregnancy tests, blood tests, HIV results, the last one even more dramatically more personal than that,” he says.

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The faxes have come from a variety of sources, including a maternity clinic and urgent care centre, all because of staff misdialing the number.

Such mistakes can sometimes have tragic consequences, as was the case with a patient named Greg Price who died of cancer. An inquiry found the health system was partly to blame for his death, because of faxes that weren’t properly sent.

“It played a big role in Greg’s experience and the breakdown of Greg’s care, because there were several times where the records were not transferred or received in the way that one may have expected or hoped for,” explains Dr. Ward Flemons from the Health Quality Council of Alberta.

The report recommended the health system move away from faxes in favour of secure electronic medical records, but faxes are still widely used.

“We continue to get reports of misdirected fax at our office, and it’s unfortunate because there are electronic systems such as Alberta Net Care that can more safely and securely transport this kind of information to the proper recipient,” says Brian Hamilton from the office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta.

Alberta Health Services says it follows up on all misdirected fax complaints and trains its staff to dial carefully.

Patients are urged to follow up with clinics, to ensure their records are going to the correct place.

 

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