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Oct 4, 2019

Lisa Corrente speaks to Advocate Daily about a recent fine given to a medical clinic employee for health data breaches

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AdvocateDaily.com

An office assistant has been fined for snooping into two people’s health records while she was an employee at an Edmonton medical clinic.

The woman admitted in provincial court last week that she looked at the data on numerous occasions without a valid reason.

She was fined a total of just over $4,000 and is no longer employed at the clinic.

In an interview with AdovcateDaily.com, Toronto health lawyer Lisa Corrente says the fine serves as a deterrent and includes a victim surcharge which helps fund victim services such as counselling.

“The woman accessed sensitive personal health information of the clinic’s patients admittedly on numerous occasions without a valid reason,” says Corrente, a partner with Torkin Manes LLP. “Whether the loss of her job was warranted depends on the circumstances. For instance, termination with cause may not be justified if the former employee was otherwise a good or long-term worker and was not properly trained on the clinic’s policies.”

She says medical clinics and health care professionals have a responsibility to safeguard the personal information of their patients.

“Comprehensive privacy policies, proper training for employees on these policies, restricted access to electronic health records to authorized staff, periodic review of reports of who is accessing electronic patient records and an annual security risk analysis may prevent privacy breaches,” Corrente says.

Many employees often do not appreciate the possible repercussions of breaching a person’s privacy, she says.

“They can include loss of one’s job, being convicted of an offence and civil lawsuits for intrusion upon seclusion,” Corrente says.

Two individuals became suspicious when the woman made comments to them about personal health details.

They asked to see a record of who had logged into their electronic health information and subsequently complained to the province's privacy commissioner.

An investigation led to charges against the woman earlier this year.

It is an offence under the Health Information Act to knowingly gain or attempt to gain access to private medical records.

This article originally appeared on AdvocateDaily.com.

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