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Employee-Driven Leaks in Healthcare

InfoWatch Analytical Center has prepared a digest of data leaks from healthcare and pharma organizations, this time focusing on intentional incidents involving employees.

The significant share of leaks from hospitals and drugstores result from unauthorized access to confidential information, with employees viewing patients’ details either out of curiosity, or for personal gain.

Thus, Holt Medical Practice has dismissed a doctor for unauthorized access to the records of roughly 150 patients. The management does not think that the individual acted with any malicious intent, and has no reason to believe that any personal or sensitive information has been shared outside the practice. However, patients have been outraged after learning about the incident.

To satisfy personal curiosity, a Sobeys pharmacist in Canada ‘snooped’ on the highly sensitive prescription histories, medical conditions and other personal health information of friends, family and coworkers over a two-year period, with a total of 46 individuals being affected. The coming audit helped reveal the data breach. The pharmacist panicked after being informed about the site visit and tried to get other employees to assist her in coming up with reasons for all the unauthorized access logged in the computer. 

In Israel, a case was submitted to court against three women being accused of confidential information transfer and privacy breach. Acting out of religious and ideological motives, a secretary of the private clinic in Beersheba illegally transferred data on women, who were going to procure an abortion, to non-profit organization Mummy Save Me, with the organization members then calling those women and talking them out of doing it.

Yet another ethical category of medical secrets concerns the treatment of medical information about public figures. Any disclosure of such confidential information can dramatically affect the carrier of a famous patient. The Hague's hospital has given 85 members of staff an official warning for looking at the medical files of a television celebrity Samantha de Jong, better known as Barbie, who was admitted to the hospital in January after trying to kill herself. The hospital says if any of the members of staff does the same thing again, they will be sacked on the spot. 

One member of Ipswich Hospital staff (UK) has been sacked and another has been given a written warning for accessing famous singer Ed Sheeran’s patient information without legitimate or clinical reason. Sheeran was admitted to the hospital after he broke his arm and wrist in a bicycle accident.