‘Substantial’ privacy breach sees hundreds of N.S. patient records accessed

Portrait an unknown male doctor holding a stethoscope behind.
Portrait an unknown male doctor holding a stethoscope behind. Getty Images

Hundreds of patient records at the Nova Scotia Health Authority were inappropriately accessed in two separate incidents involving six employees.

The health authority is reaching out to 337 patients whose personal health information was accessed in the widespread privacy breaches.

A spokesperson said the privacy breaches are among the largest on record at the provincial health body.

Colin Stevenson, an executive with the authority, called the violation of confidentiality “substantial” and said the incidents are being taken seriously.

“Any time there is a violation of privacy and confidentiality, we do treat it seriously,” Stevenson, vice-president of quality, system performance and transformation, said Monday. “It’s something we’re concerned about and it’s something we want people to know we take very seriously.

READ MORE: 247 patient records breached by AHS employee

“We’re not hiding behind it,” he added. “We’re willing to say it’s a problem and it’s something we’re going to continue to try and fix as an organization.”

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The six employees invBolved are subject to disciplinary action, which could include termination, Stevenson said.

He could not confirm whether the personal health records were accessed in error or deliberately with malicious intent.

“If they weren’t part of the circle of care, if they didn’t need access to any information about that individual in order to do their job, and they’ve looked it up, they have no reason to look at that record,” he said. “For us, that’s a violation.”

The first incident, involving the inappropriate access and handling of health information of 244 patients by three employees, came to light after a patient complained in July 2016.

The second incident, involving the inappropriate access of health information of 93 patients by three different employees, was investigated after a manager raised concerns in January.

READ MORE: Hospital disciplines staff who inappropriately accessed Rob Ford’s records

Stevenson said the information contained in a patient’s record includes basic demographic information as well as test results, notes by physicians and other personal information.