Wednesday, July 21, 2010

800,000 patient records missing?

How would you feel if your local doctor or hospital called you to say that a backup record of your digital medical record is missing? Huh?  I thought that the use of electronic health records of EHRs was supposed to improve patient care, enhance patient privacy, and reduce the risk of these types of problems. I suppose when you can cram 800,000 patient records into something really small (like a portable hard drive, a flash drive, or even a memory card), then it's feasible to "lose" such information easily.

The Boston Globe is reporting that: "Computer files from South Shore Hospital that contain personal information for about 800,000 people may have been lost when they were shipped to a contractor to be destroyed, hospital officials announced yesterday.... The information was on back-up files headed for destruction because they were in a format the hospital said it no longer used. Based on the investigation so far, the hospital said the files contained information on patients, employees, physicians, volunteers, donors, and other business partners associated with South Shore between Jan. 1, 1996, and Jan. 6 of this year."

You can read more here.

Do you still have some old computer backup files? Were you using tapes? Zip disks? CD-ROM? DVD-ROM? External hard drives? (Maybe you even have some important files on 3.5" floppy disks)

Some day, these technologies will be obsolete and you'll need a way to effectively getting rid of all this data.

1 comment:

  1. This could have happened just as easily, if not easier, if, say, they were shipping 800,000 paper files. There is inherent risk with anything electronic and connected to the internet, but I don't think there is big incentive to hack into any medical records database, other than to say you did. The concern mentioned here also exists with paper files, I think it is unreasonable.