Archive for May 9th, 2011

Taking Privacy A Step Too Far?

Recently, a local hospital system announced it had fired more than two dozen employees, all of whom had committed the same offense – viewing patient records they didn’t have a need to.

It’s nice that they’re being proactive in protecting peoples’ privacy… but I have a really strong suspicion they jumped the gun a bit.

Here’s the thing – all the employees accessed patient records of some young men who were hospitalized after overdosing on synthetic cannibanoids they’d bought over the internet. It was, as the hospital notes, a very high-profile incident, locally; one man died from overdosing on what is, technically, thanks to loopholes, a perfectly legal substance.

The victims were not celebrities. They were not – are not – famous. There’s little to no opportunity for salacious gossip in their medical records.

If you’re a medical professional, however, and you (correctly) anticipated that you might be called on to treat such an overdose in the future, I’d think that their records would include some very valuable information that you’d have a professional interest in seeing – what treatments were administered, say, and how the kids responded to the treatment. What symptoms the victims presented. What bloodwork was done to identify the drug, and what the results were.

Maybe it’s just my analytic background, but I think that attempting to familiarize yourself, professionally, with an emerging medical issue is perfectly adequate reason to access medical records of “high-profile” nobodies. I’d certainly rather have medical professionals relying on (shock!) medical records for their information than, say, a newspaper. Or Wikipedia.

I’m sure that even as I type this the union(s) is/are preparing to appeal what seem to be pretty much summary dismissals, but I still find it sad that in this day and age a responsible employee can be fired (if only temporarily, one hopes) for giving a shit about their job…

Published in: General, Security | on May 9th, 2011 | No Comments »