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St Joes taking steps to reduce risk of misdirected medical records

St Joes taking steps to reduce risk of misdirected medical records

Faxes, in most workplaces a bygone technological relic of the 1980’s, are still a key reporting tool in the health-care sector. In the wake of a medical records confidentiality breach that saw over 2,000 medical records sent to the wrong recipient, St Joes has completed a comprehensive review of various privacy protocols and practices.

The hospital issued a release that described several protocol changes it has ordered:

•             Launched and completed mandatory annual privacy training for all staff, in addition to the existing requirements for training at onboarding;

•             Enhanced the hospital’s privacy policy that sets out rules for the collection, use and disclosure of personal health information, a protocol for responding to privacy breaches and warns of disciplinary consequences for non-compliance, up to and including termination;

•             Increased governance and oversight of privacy incidents, including bimonthly audits and a privacy disclaimer presented to staff before they sign into the hospital’s electronic medical record system.

What happened

SJHH misdirected faxes for 2020 and 2021. As a result, SJHH is contacting approximately 230 patients to inform them that a health record about them was faxed to the wrong person in error. In almost all cases, the faxes were inadvertently sent to the wrong health care professional, such as a previous family doctor, who then informed SJHH of the error and confirmed they destroyed the fax they received. SJHH is notifying patients in accordance with requirements of the privacy legislation. 

In issuing an apology to the affected patients, St Joes announced specific measures around faxed health records to reduce the risk of misdirection:

•             Updated SJHH’s fax reporting tool to collect more fields of information which allow for more timely investigation into whether a misdirected fax incident constitutes a breach of the Personal Health Information and Protection Act (PHIPA), patient and IPC notification where applicable, and the ability to track and remediate incidents;

•             Strengthening standard procedures to confirm the correct primary care provider in our information systems in order to reduce the possibility of misdirected faxes. SJHH is also encouraging patients to update contact information to ensure information is sent to the current/correct healthcare provider.

Patients who have questions or concerns about SJHH’s review of misdirected faxes can contact St Joes at

“We sincerely apologize to all patients who were affected by these privacy incidents,” said Wendy Lawrence, SJHH’s Chief Privacy Officer. “We know that having strong privacy practices and safeguards is essential to fostering trust between patients, SJHH, and clinicians, and to the delivery of the highest quality health care. Our promise to our patients is that we have and will continue to take actions to protect and safeguard their privacy.” 

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