Concerns Raised About Breach of Patient Records

Medical negligence almost always involves doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals who fail to act according to a reasonable standard of care, resulting in physical harm to patients. While this basic mold is far and away the most common form of medical malpractice, failure to act reasonably in other ways can cause harm to patients that is not directly physical. In our area, a more experienced Chicago medical malpractice lawyer has likely come across a few cases involving more unique situations, such as the loss or theft of patient records. The high-profile push to move away from paper records and to electronic records has some worried that medical data breaches will likely only rise.

The New York Times discussed the issue this week, using the example of a stolen laptop to highlight the sensitivity of these records. An employee who works for a small nonprofit association that helps doctors digitize patients records had a company briefcase stolen from his car. Inside that briefcase were records from nearly 14,000 patients. Those records included everything from names and Social Security numbers to birth dates, contact information and insurance data. Anyone with their hands on that information willing to commit identify theft would have had free reign.

A new report from the Ponemon Institute found that there has been a sharp rise in digitized health data beaches since the increased use of electronic health records over the past couple years. In the last two years alone the group estimates that breaches increased by thirty two percent. One nonprofit CEO who was involved in a breach explained that the medical community was entering a “brave new world” because of the electronic records shift. He suggests that medical providers and the companies involved would simply have to enact much more stringent protocols and security features to ensure that the breaches are curbed.

The cost of the breaches is no laughing matter, totaling an estimated $6.5 billion last year alone. For example, in October of this year a desktop computer containing unencrypted patient records of more than four million patients was stolen from a nonprofit health company. The theft ultimately led to a suit seeking at least $1,000 for each of the victims whose records were breached. That could ultimately mean that that the single breach could result in hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties and costs. Even a comparatively small breach, such as one that occurred at a local hospital a few months ago involving 192 patients ultimately cost the hospital over $ 1 million.

Any Chicago medical malpractice attorney knows that the electronic records shift maybe a mixed bag, especially at first. But, at the end of the day, all those involved in the effort to shift to electronic records must remember the duty of care to which they are under when it comes to prioritizing patient safety and well being. Problems that arise that could not have been reasonably prevented are possible, but it is unacceptable for errors to be made which could have been prevented. Failure to prevent those errors is medical malpractice.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Electronic Records May Have Effect on Malpractice Lawsuits

Chicago Medical Malpractice Attorney Reports on Concerns About Electronic Health Records

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