B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham.

B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham.

VIP patient snooping among health privacy breaches

Privacy commissioner's report urges health authorities to tighten safeguards

Too many health authority employees inappropriately snoop in patient records and some deliberately disclose sensitive information via social media or cellphones.

That’s one of the most serious types of breaches flagged by B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham in a new report on how the province’s health authorities safeguard privacy.

The report cites “cases of snooping where staff members access records of VIP or other patients out of curiousity or for malicious intent.”

It uncovered four cases in 2013 of staff posting photos of patients to Facebook or Instagram, and three cases of doctors or nurses taking photos.

Another nurse commented on a patient’s health information on Facebook.

“The (privacy commissioner’s office) has serious concern regarding health authority staff deliberately disclosing the sensitive personal information of patients through their own mobile devices and on social media,” the report said.

The report doesn’t break down the number or frequency of incidents between B.C.’s health regions.

Denham’s office has received 200 privacy breach complaints over 10 years from health authorities but suspects that’s just one per cent of the actual number of incidents.

Misdirected faxes were the single most common type of privacy breach identified.

Lost or stolen records or mobile devices were most common among home health and community care programs.

Half of health authorities reported problems with home care workers leaving patient records unsecured in their cars against policy.

Fraser Health told Denham’s office its privacy officers notify affected individuals in almost every privacy breach, in addition to the health region’s CEO.

There is no legal requirement for disclosure in B.C.

Data held by health authorities includes personal identifiers, financial information, health conditions, test results, medication used, as well as information on patients’ physical, mental and emotional status, as well as lifestyle and behaviour.

Denham issued 13 recommendations for action to reduce the risk of future privacy breaches.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Salvation Army is open for applications for their Christmas hamper program on Nov. 30, and applications are due by Dec. 12. (Chilliwack Progress file photo)
Christmas hamper application process starts in Chilliwack

Hampers available for individuals and families who apply before Dec. 12

The Abbotsford Police Department is investigating a shooting on Adair Avenue on Saturday night. (Photo by Dale Klippenstein)
Drive-by shooting in Abbotsford targeted home with young children, police say

Investigators believe home was mistakenly targeted by assailants

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
Abbotsford care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

Trustees Darrell Furgason (right) and Barry Neufeld at a January 2019 board meeting. (Chilliwack Progress file)
Chilliwack trustee responds to teachers’ call for censure

Furgason: ‘Unions exist to make demands from an employer for their members’

Morning mist clears over the Hope Slough at Camp River Road on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. (Jessica Peters/ Chilliwack Progress)
WEATHER: Sunny skies in the forecast for Chilliwack and Abbotsford

Rain and wind expected Sunday night through Monday morning, then clear skies

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Langley RCMP issued a $2,300 fine to the Riverside Calvary church in Langley in the 9600 block of 201 Street for holding an in-person service on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, despite a provincial COVID-19 related ban (Dan Ferguson/Black Press Media)
Updated: Langley church fined for holding in-person Sunday service

Calvary church was fined $2,300 for defying provincial order

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(File photo)
Vancouver police warn of toxic drug supply after 7 people overdose at one party

Seven people between the ages of 25 to 42 were taken to hospital for further treatment.

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

Most Read