A hospital employee disclosed health information about a woman

A woman was being treated for a serious illness at her local hospital. Her doctor dictated a file note about the woman’s illness and the proposed treatment. This was transcribed by an employee of the hospital.

This employee had been a close friend of the woman, and was able to identify her from the dictation. The hospital employee subsequently disclosed to a mutual friend that the woman was unwell. The mutual friend then contacted the woman to express their concern.

The woman had not told anyone of her illness at that point, and was very upset that health information about her had been disclosed.

Rule 11 of the Health Information Privacy Code 2004 prohibits a health agency from disclosing health information about an individual unless one of the specified exceptions applies.

We did not consider that any of the exceptions were relevant and the hospital agreed. It accepted that its employee had breached rule 11, and caused emotional harm to the woman.

The woman and the hospital agreed to settle this complaint. The hospital provided an apology to the woman for the stress that had been caused to her, and also paid her some financial compensation.

We closed our file on the basis that it had been settled.

September 2012

Disclosure of health information – disclosure to a mutual friend – hospital – settlement – Health Information Privacy Code 2004; rule 11

SOURCE: privacy.org.nz

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