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Australia Confidential patient records exposed online for over a decade

17:06  04 august  2018
17:06  04 august  2018 Source:   9news.com.au

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Confidential patient records exposed online for over a decade South Australia Health has been forced to apologise for a major privacy breach that has seen

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South Australia Health has been forced to apologise for a major privacy breach that has seen the confidential names and test results of more than 7200 children published online for more than a decade.

The breach relates to those who were treated at the Adelaide Women's and Children's Hospital for gastro, whooping cough and respiratory infections between 1996 and 2005.

The confidential information, which included names, birthdates and test results was accidentally embedded in a powerpoint presentation on infectious diseases and published on the hospital's website in 2005.

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A confidential relationship between physician and patient is essential for the free flow of information necessary for sound medical care. Historically, the privileged nature of communications between physician and patient has been a safeguard for the patient ’s personal privacy and constitutional rights.

a city street in front of a building: More than 7000 women's and children's hospital records were left in an online powerpoint for more than a decade. Picture: 9NEWS. © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd More than 7000 women's and children's hospital records were left in an online powerpoint for more than a decade. Picture: 9NEWS.

The mistake was only uncovered this week, when a parent who 'Googled' their child's name found a link to the presentation and alerted authorities.

Investigations have also found that the data was uploaded without authorisation on two global document sharing websites.

SA Health said it knows the presentation was downloaded and viewed more than 300 times but it doesn't know who may have saved it.

a sign in front of a building: The names and test results of 7200 people who attended the Adelaide Women's and Children's Hospital were posted to two global document sharing websites. Picture: 9NEWS. © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd The names and test results of 7200 people who attended the Adelaide Women's and Children's Hospital were posted to two global document sharing websites. Picture: 9NEWS.

"Firstly I would like to apologise to the patients for this error... this is a regrettable incident from our perspective," said Phil Robinson, the Executive Director at the Women's and Children's Hospital.

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"We have spoken to the author and they are very surprised that this has happened because it was completely inadvertent.

"I do wish to emphasise that... there's been no breach of our patient information systems."

a man sitting at a desk: The confidential information related to patients treated for gastro, whooping couch and respiratory infections between 1996 and 2005. Picture: 9NEWS. © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd The confidential information related to patients treated for gastro, whooping couch and respiratory infections between 1996 and 2005. Picture: 9NEWS.

SA Health has found six other online presentations with similar data links that have now also been taken down.

"We will now need to ensure that no one is putting any identifying data into these spreadsheets," it said.

SA Health also said it hasn't individually contacted the thousands of patients impacted by the breach because the sheer number of people and age of the data make it too difficult.

The major breach comes just a day after the New South Wales Government announced an audit of its state medical records following a similar controversial release of patient data.

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Common law duty of confidence - confidential patient information may only be disclosed: With a patient 's consent; or. Where it is required or permitted by law (statutory instrument or Court Order); or. Where the public good achieved by disclosure outweighs the individual's right to confidentiality .

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a close up of a cluttered table: NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said an urgent audit of archived medical records will be launched to determine which patients have been affected by the document breach. Picture: ABC. © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said an urgent audit of archived medical records will be launched to determine which patients have been affected by the document breach. Picture: ABC.

More than 1000 confidential patient documents dating between 1992 and 2002 were found on the floor of the abandoned Garrawarra Centre for Aged Care in Helensburgh, south of Sydney.

The documents that were uncovered in an ABC report were placed in the secured, fenced-off building - which has been abandoned due to contamination for almost 20 years - under a Labor government.

They were also not made available via an official breach of NSW Health systems, but by people who had illegally trespassed into the building since it has been abandoned.

a messy living room: The sensitive paper records, dating from 1992 to 2002, were foudn on the flood of the Garrawarra Centre for Aged Care in Helensburgh. Picture: ABC. © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd The sensitive paper records, dating from 1992 to 2002, were foudn on the flood of the Garrawarra Centre for Aged Care in Helensburgh. Picture: ABC.

Under NSW State Archives & Records protocol, state health documents can only be held for a minimum of 10 years after a patient's last attendance or contact with the facility.

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After that point, they are then required to be destroyed - however almost two decades after the Garrawarra Centre was abandoned - the documents uncovered in Helensburgh had not been.

a person walking in the grass: South Australia Health has been forced to apologise, after the names and test results of more than seven thousand children were published online. © Provided by Nine Digital Pty Ltd South Australia Health has been forced to apologise, after the names and test results of more than seven thousand children were published online. NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard apologised for the bungle and promised the people affected by the leak that an investigation would unearth how the documents came to be left in the building.

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