WINNIPEG – A pharmacist at the Grace Hospital “inappropriately accessed” the personal health information of 56 people, said the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.
WRHA Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Real Cloutier said in a news release it was discovered in a “proactive audit” that the employee “had a history of accessing and reviewing health records of patients to whom this individual was not providing care.”
Cloutier said the WRHA employee is no longer working with the health authority as a result.
“Accessing, reviewing, or browsing through patient records out of curiosity is not permitted,” said Cloutier. “We take patient privacy and our role in safeguarding personal health information very seriously, and we appreciate how upsetting this can be for patients. I am reassured, however, that the security and auditing procedures we have in place successfully identified this unauthorized activity so it could be stopped.”
The WRHA said the patients whose health information was accessed would be notified.
The system used to access the information was eChart Manitoba, a secure electronic system brought in under former Health Minister Theresa Oswald that allows healthcare providers quick access to patients’ health information.
Records in the system include name and address of the patient, drug prescriptions, lab results, immunizations, and x-ray reports, said the WRHA.
Cloutier can’t say why the culprit was looking at the patients’ records. “We were unable to determine except for personal interest that they were doing this,” he said. “We could not identify any reason for the use of it beyond some personal reviewing or exploring. There was nothing we found beyond that.”
He said the WRHA did not find anything malicious going on.
“The thing that you would worry about is are they selling information, are they providing information to a third party of some sort, we could not identify any of that going on.”
He said officials found, over a three-month period they examined, the pharmacist was viewing records of patients who were not necessarily connected to the Grace Hospital.
“What triggered [it] for us was that charts were being reviewed outside of the facility,” he said. “Then we did further due diligence, went back further and we were able to identify the 56 individuals where the breach occurred.”
The Manitoba Ombudsman said it has initiated a review of the privacy breach. In a news release, Acting Ombudsman Mel Holley said he was made aware of it March 6, when the “WRHA was in the preliminary stages of its investigation.”
He said he will review the WRHA’s handling of the incident to ensure the proper steps were taken and to ensure safeguards are in place to protect patients’ privacy.
“We will continue to work with the WRHA, and to investigate the concerns of any individuals contacting us who may be affected by this breach,” he said.