Ontario man finds patient data on back of script
August 23, 2017
TORONTO – Eddie Soltani (pictured) was about to fill a prescription given to his wife when he looked at the the back of the document and found the names, birth dates and health card numbers of 60 other patients printed there.
The script was given to the woman by her family physician, Dr. Michael Lai. “I was actually kind of nervous,” Soltani told CBC News. “I’m holding information I’m not authorized to hold. And my wife is a patient here. What about her information? Is that safe?”
Soltani said he didn’t feel comfortable directly approaching the doctor because he didn’t think “the burden should be on a patient” to ask why a physician didn’t handle the information properly.
He says he brought the sheet of paper to a Service Ontario location, but says he didn’t get anywhere. “I was expecting a rapid response kind of thing. Call someone, make a trip to the doctor’s office. Don’t [they] have a program in place to deal with situations like this?” he asked.
Instead, he said he was told to call the OHIP fraud hotline. He says he did so, only to be told the issue did not constitute fraud.
The operator redirected him to the Ontario privacy commissioner’s office, which he said he called, but was told they couldn’t help him either unless he made a formal complaint. Soltani thought informing them was enough.
“It boggles my mind,” he said. “I protect my personal information all the time. Yes, I’m protecting that piece of plastic, but who is actually protecting the information behind the scenes? I think it’s critical to give the people a way to say, ‘I’ve done my part. I’ve reported.’”
The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario told CBC Toronto it found no record of Soltani contacting its office, though in a case like this, according to spokesperson Tiffanie Ing, the office would “contact the doctor to find out how this mistake was made … and ensure that the doctor notified the patient whose information went astray.”
Ing said the commissioner’s office “absolutely responds to tips and does not require a formal complaint in order to act.” She also confirmed the office has launched an investigation after CBC Toronto first published the story.
When CBC News spoke with Dr. Lai, the family doctor did not deny Soltani’s allegations, but refused a request for an interview. “It must be a mistake. Sorry about that. No comment,” he said.
Former privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian says ‘action should be taken’ to contact patients whose privacy may have been breached.
“Personal health information is the most sensitive information that exists,” she said. “That information belongs to no one other than yourself and your physician who is treating you. So, if it was made accessible to someone else, it’s completely inappropriate.”
Cavoukian said health information can reveal a lot about a person and can affect someone’s career advancement and other aspects of their lives. “Part of taking care of patients is protecting their health information in the strongest possible way,” she said.