PEI

Patient privacy violated by information screen

The use of a big screen containing patient information in the emergency department at Charlottetown's Queen Elizabeth Hospital is a breach of privacy, says provincial privacy commissioner Maria MacDonald.

Health PEI ordered to amend information on screen or move it

Health PEI was ordered by the privacy commissioner to amend the information on the screens in the emergency department at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, or move the screens. (CBC)

The use of a big screen containing patient information in the emergency department at Charlottetown's Queen Elizabeth Hospital is a breach of privacy, says provincial privacy commissioner Maria MacDonald.

The screen helps staff keep track of patients in the treatment area. It displays a list of patients, including last name, first initial, age, room or bed number, initial of treating doctor and other notes.

In her report MacDonald said she doesn't take issue with the use of the system but rather where it is. She said it is visible to anyone in the corridors and she has seen people looking at it.

MacDonald made a number of recommendations in her order. She suggested simply removing the names and using bed numbers.

Health PEI argued the display did not give enough information that would identify patients. The agency said removing names would interrupt the flow in the emergency and could place patients at risk. Health PEI also said it trusted the public not to read the display.

MacDonald ruled that the honour system is an unreliable way to secure private information.

"One of the monitors is located close to the entrance of the treatment area and it looks like a directory," she wrote.

"I find it is unreasonable to assume that people do not read the monitors."

She said even showing the name and age of a person violates the privacy act. She noted the screen information included codes that could be known to the general public, such as ones indicating a mental health issue. The public could also infer health conditions by the name of the attending doctor.

In her order, MacDonald made it clear that the QEH does not have to restrict visitor access or stop using the board all together, rather use it in a way where private information is not displayed prominently.

Health PEI could not be reached for comment.

For mobile device users: Are you concerned about privacy issues from the information screens at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital?

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