7,000 Alberta patients' private health information breached in e-mail hack

Aug 22 2019, 2:21 pm

The personal health information of approximately 7,000 Albertans may have been exposed due to the criminal hacking of a physician’s personal Gmail account.

The physician, who works at Calgary’s Richmond Road Diagnostic and Treatment Centre, used his own private e-mail to transmit health information.

“While this privacy breach was unintentional and is deeply regretted by the physician, that does not in any way diminish the seriousness of the matter,” said Dr. Francois Belanger, vice president, and quality and chief medical officer of Alberta Health Services (AHS).

Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that patients’ personal and healthcare information has been accessed by the hacker. The incident is still considered a privacy breach under the Health Information Act (HIA) and is currently being investigated by the Calgary Police Service.

AHS is conducting an internal review with the physician cooperating in the investigation.

AHS’s policy for communicating health information is through an AHS secure e-mail. The organization has “undertaken extensive work over the past several years” to ensure all physicians and staff undergo privacy training and that they are aware of the importance of appropriate access, and encryption of patient information, says the press release.

All affected patients are being contacted directly, according to the press release. A staffed telephone line is available for anyone who needs more information or assistance.

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