Friday May 25, 2018
Text:| Print|

Patients’ privacy on display

2012-01-20 16:18 Global Times     Web Editor: Xu Rui comment

Patients in Beijing's hospitals are worried that their personal patient records are at risk of being exposed or even stolen, as there is no system to keep the records safe when patients are undergoing treatment, whether as in- or out-patients.

Some have complained that in most hospitals in the capital, even those with a high reputation, like Peking Union Medical College Hospital and Tongren Hospital, patients' records are not kept confidential.

The records contain personal details such as ID card numbers and addresses, as well as intimate medical details, and are often left unattended on the reception counters of different departments. This leaves patients at risk of identity theft, said patients and lawyers.

Dozens of brown paper envelopes tagged with patients' names and reservation lists were seen scattered on a five- to six-meter long desk on the first floor of Peking Union's outpatient department. A reporter from the Beijing Morning Post found that more than 10 different medical sheets were inside one such folder, such as laboratory test results, an electrocardiogram report, medications prescribed, but none of the five nurses at the counter stopped him from accessing those records.

While being asked about the possibility of losing the records or leaking private information, a staff member told the reporter that the records belonged to inpatients who had made an appointment to see a doctor for that day, "they are of no use to other people."

However, the Global Times found yesterday afternoon that piles of records had been placed on a trolley at the back of the Peking Union outpatient reception counter, with two nurses keeping watch over them.

The director of the publicity department at Tongren hospital, surnamed Li, told the Global Times that they have communicated with Peking Union about this problem and have tried to devise a better solution for record-keeping.

"The normal procedure is that we take the records out of a file room used for storing medical records and send them to the relevant department, where the patient is booked in for an appointment. Department staff will keep them on the reception counter until the patients' arrival," she said.

She added that their ophthalmology department receives 5,000 patients daily on average, so it is really difficult for the hospital to keep so many records in order on the reception counter. Patients normally need to look through the files to find their own records before their appointment, so that nurses can send them to the doctor.

Many people consider information about their health to be highly sensitive, especially together with other private information, like ID card numbers, mobile numbers, and home addresses, which deserves the strongest protection under the law.

"I would mind if my record was put outside without staff to look after it, since it's my privacy, especially if I suffer from some unmentionable disease. Furthermore, I don't know if I might be affected by the leaked information which might be used by criminals," a patient surnamed Zhou told the Global Times.

Zhang Zhiqin, a lawyer from Beijing-based Yingke Law Firm, pointed out that as soon as patients register at a hospital, they have signed a contract with that hospital, so the hospital has the responsibility to keep any medical records safely.

"It's obvious that any hospitals that treat records in this manner have violated the contract for record keeping, which reveals some faults in their management system… If the leaked information resulted in losses for patients, hospitals should assume full responsibility," he said.

However, only relying on laws is not realistic since laws or regulations normally take effect only after the leak has brought consequences.

"For better monitoring of record keeping, the health system should attach enough importance to this issue by making more strict requirements for keeping patients' records," he noted.


Comments (0)

Copyright ©1999-2011 All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.