'Stalker' hospital doctor drives NHS confidentiality conversation
The NHS faces a new problem in terms of confidentiality and proper use of medical records as the case of the "stalker" doctor makes headlines and raises red flags for professionals and patients alike.
After a "stalker" doctor at one of the UK's hospitals violated confidentiality by accessing and sharing the medical data of a patient that is not even hers, the NHS is faced with a new dilemma.
The doctor allegedly accessed the information of a patient who "had started dating her ex-boyfriend" said The Guardian, which also reported that this left the patient, and victim, in "fear, shock and horror".
After information pertaining to the victim's medical records and her children's medical details, some of which were initially only known to a few people, were accessed by the doctor, “I felt violated when I learned that this woman, who I didn’t know, had managed to access on a number of occasions details of my life that I had shared with my GP and only my family and very closest friends. It was about something sensitive involving myself and my children, about a family tragedy.”
The case raised multiple red flags in England, given that any NHS doctor could abuse their privilege and obtain medical records for "personal rather than clinical reasons."
According to a member of the health data privacy group MedConfidential, Sam Smith, “This is an utterly appalling case. It’s an individual problem that the doctor did this," however, Smith highlighted that this has been "a systemic problem that they could do it, and that flaws in the way the NHS’s data management systems work meant that any doctor can do something like this to any patient."
In a worrying statement Smith announced, “If you’re registered with the NHS in England, this could happen to you.”
It is worth noting that Addenbrooke Hospital, Cambridge, where the incident took place, denied that such a thing could happen. However, it was later proved that on three different occasions, the doctor was able to access the medical information of the victim through Epic, Addenbrooke's hospital medical records system, one of them being while the doctor was on vacation in California.
The NHS national guardian for England, Dr Nicola Byrne, who advised on how to maintain the confidentiality of medical records safe and properly used, noted that “Breaches of confidentiality are absolutely unacceptable. All clinicians should take their professional duties and obligations very seriously. And, given that no case like [this] has ever come to my attention before, I trust that most do.”
Read more: Harassment, assault prompt decision of UK nurses wearing body cameras