Ryder's medical files spied on
Four clinicians who inappropriately accessed bashed cricket star Jesse Ryder's medical records in the days after his Christchurch attack are now under investigation by the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB).
The CDHB has "apologised unreservedly" to Ryder after staff meddled in his medical records while he was fighting for his life after he was attacked by two men outside Aikmans Bar in Merivale in the early hours of March 28.
He spent six days recovering in Christchurch Hospital.
CDHB chief executive David Meates said a routine audit discovered the privacy breach only days after Ryder's discharge from Christchurch Hospital on April 3.
The audit found four clinicians had accessed Ryder's X-ray records "when they did not have a role in his care", Meates said.
Two of the clinicians were from West Coast DHB, one was from South Canterbury DHB and another was from Christchurch.
The CDHB has only just confirmed the identities of the four staff members through their personal and traceable log-in passwords and Meates said the clinicians may not be aware they are under investigation yet.
He had "no idea" why they had snooped into Ryder's confidential records but said all four individuals would be questioned.
Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff said browsing of this ilk "is wrong, on so many levels - including that it's a serious breach of clients' trust''.
''And it does real damage to the organisation's reputation when it comes to light, as several government departments and hospitals have found out to their cost."
Shroff said serious and deliberate browsing incidents should be labelled as what they are - "serious misconduct that can, and often should, result in dismissal".
Ryder would not comment when approached yesterday.
Meates said the staff members had not faced any disciplinary action yet as the investigation could find they had "valid rationale or justifications" to access the files.
"Until we have fully reviewed it we need to keep an open mind."
Meates would not speculate on whether the clinicians could face dismissal following the outcome of the investigation but said the CDHB takes privacy breaches "very, very seriously".
The health board's 9000 staff members were all aware of the "very clear expectations" surrounding privacy and that only clinical staff involved in the direct care of a patient were authorised to access their medical records.
"Everyone's health information is critically important. Quite frankly high-profile or non high-profile we have the same approach. This [investigation] is something we would do as a matter of course regardless of whether it was Mr Ryder or not," Meates said.
"I want to reassure the public that patient confidentiality is paramount to the CDHB. Patients should rightly expect their health information be accessed only by clinical staff directly involved in their care and treatment."
The CDHB has a clinically secure network and its systems are "very different from other information issues that have emerged", such as the recent Earthquake Commission privacy leak, Meates said.
The incident highlighted a "human behavioural issue, not an issue with our systems - it actually proves our systems are working", he said.
Ryder's records were accessed via a picture archiving system that the CDHB uses to provide clinicians around the South Island with a platform to communicate and provide second opinions to one another. The archiving system cannot be accessed by the public.
Ryder was informed of the privacy breach and investigation by a phone call from the CDHB and Meates wrote a letter to the cricket star to personally apologise.
"It's his [Ryder's] health records and it is important that he knows what we are doing."
Meates was not aware of any other breaches of patient confidentiality during his five-year stint as chief executive.
In October last year Auckland District Health Board (ADHB) began disciplinary action after a privacy breach following the inappropriate access of clinical records and the possible separate leaking of information to the media about a patient who had an eel inside him. The disciplinary action is still ongoing, an ADHB spokesman said.
Ryder's alleged attackers, an uncle and nephew, appeared in the Christchurch District Court on assault charges earlier this month and were remanded until April 18.