Privacy breaches 'unacceptable'

MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 07:26 06/02/2013

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Privacy breaches are inevitable but that does not make them acceptable, MidCentral District Health Board members say.

Yesterday members of the hospital advisory committee discussed a report into two breaches at the DHB last year.

In the first, a Palmerston North woman was mailed information about mental health patients, including their names and contact details.

In the second, the DHB mailed the details of 133 clients’ children, confirming their enrolment in an adolescent oral health service, to other parents.

At yesterday’s meeting board member Barbara Robson said there had been a lot of focus on privacy and security of health information in recent months.

‘‘We’re at risk as a country of it [breaches] being normalised. We know that these things will happen but it’s still got to be seen as unacceptable.’’

Board member Richard Orzecki said mistakes would continue to happen while files were stored in a paper-based system, and digitisation would cut down on mistakes.

He recounted a situation in Australia where he had been seeking treatment and was told to get a blood test. Mr Orzecki said he had received a blood test from the same health provider a week earlier but the results must have been misplaced.

Board member Lindsay Burnell said this was an example of what could be an even bigger problem than privacy breaches, namely the misplacing of information that could lead to breaches.

‘‘What worried me was if a fax came in with two [patients’ information on it], was the second patient’s information filed with the right person?’’

DHB director for patient safety and clinical effectiveness Muriel Hancock said recommendations made in the report into the two breaches were being implemented.

A selection of 100 files was being audited to check the correct information was in each file.

‘‘We have made improvements to our processes and systems, that is what it is about, that is why we report these incidents.’’

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