N.W.T. medical records faxed to CBC
Confidentiality breach 'an eye-opener,' privacy commissioner says
Health officials in Norman Wells, N.W.T., are reviewing their policy for faxing confidential medical documents after a family's records were mistakenly sent to the CBC last week.
The health centre in the Mackenzie River town had meant to fax dozens of pages of blood test and Pap test results, as well as other medical details, to the health centre in Old Crow, Yukon. Instead, the information ended up at the CBC station in Yellowknife.
"It was a simple human error — keypad transcription error, easily confused numbers," Chad Fehr, CEO of the Sahtu Health and Social Services Authority, explained to CBC News on Monday.
Fehr said the Norman Wells health centre faxes confidential medical information two or three times each month, but this was the first time a fax had been sent to a wrong number.
Fehr said he learned of the mistake only when CBC News called to ask him about it.
"We double-check the number dialled against the intended number to ensure the fax was received and, of course, verify the fax confirmation sheet," he said.
Privacy commissioner pained
But N.W.T. privacy commissioner Elaine Keenan Bengts said checking the fax number is not good enough when it comes to medical information.
"The fact that this has happened should be an eye-opener not only for the medical centre that sent the documents, but for every medical centre in the Northwest Territories," she said.
"When you're sending faxes, perhaps a phone call before, a phone call after to make sure that it's gotten to where it's going [and] double, triple, quadruple checks on the phone numbers."
Officials with both the Stanton and Yellowknife health authorities say they phone intended recipients before and after faxes are sent.
As a result of the confidentiality breach, Fehr said the Sahtu Health and Social Services Authority is reviewing the way its health centres fax medical records.