The problems at Eastern Health with patient confidentiality should be a worry for every person who has visited a hospital or health clinic.
A dozen or more workers have been fired or disciplined at the eastern health board because they were sticking their noses where they didn’t belong into the medical details of family, friends, and in at least one case, an apartment tenant.
Converting medical records to digital form has in the past been touted as an ideal way to cut the cost of the medicare system by making the storage and use of records more efficient.
It was promoted as being a better and faster way for medical staff to get the information they need on any patient in the system.
That is likely so, but the darker side of the system is now coming to the forefront.
It appears from these security breaches that medical records are open to anyone in the medical community with a few computer skills and a password.
There was a day not so long ago that medical records were guarded behind locked doors and only those who needed the information on a specific patient could get it.
Paper records were in file folders and a librarian would pluck them off a shelf for the use of nurses and doctors to assist in diagnosis and or treatment.
Not just anyone with misguided curiosity and a sick desire to poke into the intimate details of someone’s life history could get them.
These most recent failures in the system just aren’t acceptable.
Digital files may be better and cheaper for the hospital staff but patients are paying the price for efficiency.
There is no way to turn back the clock and return to the systems of the past but there must be a way to assure that patients medical records aren’t open to the world to see.
We should be able to depend on that at least.