Tag: patient

Some virtual care companies putting patient data at risk, new study finds

This story is part of CBC Health’s Second Opinion, a weekly analysis of health and medical science news emailed to subscribers on Saturday mornings. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.


If you visit a doctor virtually through a commercial app, the information you submit in the app could be used to promote a particular drug or service, says the leader of a new Canadian study involving industry insiders.

The industry insiders “were concerned that care might not be designed to be the best care for patients, but rather might be designed to increase uptake of the drug or vaccine to meet the pharmaceutical company objectives,” said Dr. Sheryl Spithoff, a physician and scientist at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto.

Virtual care took off as a convenient way to access health care during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing patients to consult with a doctor by videoconference, phone call or text.

It’s estimated that more than one in five adults in Canada —  or 6.5 million people — don’t have a family physician or nurse practitioner they can see regularly, and virtual care is helping to fill the void.

But the study’s researchers and others who work in the medical field have raised concerns that some virtual care companies aren’t adequately protecting patients’ private health information from being used by drug companies and shared with third parties that want to market products and services.

A female doctor with long, brown hair standing in a medical office.
Dr. Sheryl Spithoff, a physician and scientist at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, co-authored a new study that found the for-profit virtual care industry valued patient data and ‘appears to view data as a revenue stream.’ (Turgut Yeter/CBC)

Spithoff co-authored the study in this week’s BMJ Open, based on interviews with 18 individuals employed or affiliated with the Canadian virtual care

Zelmer: We need to talk about patient safety

New Canadian data show that one in 17 people admitted to hospital in 2022-2023 was unintentionally harmed during their stay.

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When someone says, “we need to talk,” it’s rarely a good sign.  Well, we need to talk about patient safety.

Patient safety trends have moved in the wrong direction in recent years in Canada and elsewhere.

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When we are sick or injured, we turn to the healthcare system for help. Most receive safe care, but that’s not true for everyone. For instance, new data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) show that one in 17 people admitted to hospital in 2022-2023 was unintentionally harmed during their stay. They experienced problems with medications, post-surgery infections, pressure injuries, falls or other issues.

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HealthEC hack exposed 4.5M patient records from 18 providers

An attack on technology company HealthEC exposed almost 4.5 million records belonging to patients signed up to 18 U.S. healthcare providers.

For one Michigan provider, it was the second time in a matter of months that a significant amount of its patient data — about a million records — were breached due to a hack related to its supply chain.

HealthEC sells a population health management solution that healthcare providers rely upon to analyze, forecast and plan engagements with patients, meaning the vendor holds individuals’ personal, medical, and financial data.

The company disclosed the hack on Dec. 22, the same day it and its impacted clients began sending breach disclosure letters to affected patients.

It wasn’t until this week, however, when HealthEC’s filing regarding the incident was published on the Department of Health and Human Services’ breach portal, that the extent of the attack became publicly known. According to the HHS listing, 4,452,782 individuals were affected by the breach.

In its initial disclosure, HealthEC said unidentified threat actors accessed some of its systems from July 14-23 last year, during which time certain files were copied.

“We then undertook a thorough review of the files in order to identify what specific information was present in the files and to whom it relates,” the company said.

“This review was completed on or around October 24, 2023 and identified information relating to some of HEC’s clients. HEC began notifying our clients on October 26, 2023, and we worked with them to notify potentially impacted individuals.”

The 18 affected clients included the Alliance for Integrated Care of New York, Beaumont ACO, Corewell Health, HonorHealth, TennCare, and the University Medical Center of Princeton Physicians’ Organization.

Files that were stolen included patients’ personal details such as Social Security and Taxpayer Identification Numbers, their medical condition,

Quebec doctors say emergency room overcrowding is putting patient health at risk

MONTREAL — Overcrowding in Quebec hospitals is “out of control” and putting the lives of patients at risk, says a group representing chief doctors in the province’s emergency departments.

MONTREAL — Overcrowding in Quebec hospitals is “out of control” and putting the lives of patients at risk, says a group representing chief doctors in the province’s emergency departments.

ER occupancy rates are among the highest ever recorded in the province, said Dr. Sophie Gosselin, a spokeswoman for Regroupement des chefs d’urgence du Québec. A lack of co-ordination and a shortage of resources have left many ERs caring for patients who should be moved to hospital wards, she added.

“We are saying we can’t let things get any worse, it’s going to be really dangerous,” Gosselin said in an interview Monday.

On Friday, less than two weeks after officials confirmed they were investigating two deaths at a Montreal-area ER, her group sent a letter to Health Minister Christian Dubé warning that the situation in Quebec’s emergency rooms is “out of control.”

Those high-profile deaths are just the tip of the iceberg, Dr. Marie-Maud Couture, the group’s president, wrote to Dubé. “Overcrowding in the emergency department leads to daily mortality.”

A spokesman for Quebec’s health minister did not respond to a request for comment.

Health data website Index Santé said the average emergency department occupancy in Quebec on Monday afternoon was 134 per cent; that figure hasn’t been below 100 per cent since Nov. 12. Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital was the most crowded, at 217 per cent occupancy, while the Hôtel-Dieu de Sorel northeast of Montreal was at 200 per cent.

According to provincial government data, 32 per cent of ER patients spent more than 24 hours waiting on a stretcher in the seven days leading up to Dec. 11, the most

Province expands health-care workforce and increases patient access

Selina Robinson, Minister of Post Secondary Education and Future Skills

“By creating new training seats and bringing innovative training models to public post-secondary institutions, we are creating more opportunities for individuals looking to work in the health-care field. This investment is how we are building a strong, robust health-care system that serves the people of British Columbia.”

Jennifer Rice, Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Health, and MLA for North Coast

“Health care needs to be accessible to everyone, regardless of where they live. We’re improving health-care services in every corner of the province. Expanding the paramedic workforce and ambulance services, particularly in rural and remote communities, and the significant increase in financial travel supports for those accessing care in larger communities is an important part of our work.”

Harwinder Sandhu, Parliamentary Secretary for Seniors’ Services –

“I am thrilled to see more health workers have been trained and hired to work in communities throughout B.C., as well as long-term care settings, assisted living and the home health sector. Not only does this support our health-care workers, it also means our seniors receive the quality care they deserve and their loved ones can rest easier knowing health-care professionals are there to help and deliver the care they need. Our government is committed to continuing to strengthen the health-care and long-term care system across our province.”

Dennon Leibel, relational security officer at Vernon Jubilee Hospital in Vernon –

“I’m excited to now be a direct member of the Interior Health team and apply the new skills and training that were introduced as part of the Relational Security Program. Seeing how strong our team is and will be is very encouraging because we have the chance to make this program very successful.”

Kym Baresinkoff, clinical manager at Hardy View Lodge in Grand Forks –

SHA signs new patient rights document amid health-care pressures

The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) signed a new patient rights and responsibilities agreement.

On Thursday SHA signed an agreement titled Our Commitment to Each Other, intended to “enshrining several elements related to patient safety, quality care and the SHA’s commitment to truth and reconciliation.”

SHA CEO Andrew Will said prior to the formation of SHA, various health authorities had different documents regarding patient rights and responsibilities, and this new agreement will now replace the others.

The agreement includes:

  • Providing care free from any form of discrimination.
  • Providing translation services and explaining care in a way that’s understandable to everyone.
  • Striving to include cultural supports when care is provided.
  • Keeping health information private.
  • Partnering with patients to help with health care choices and needs.
  • Helping patients access their health information.

“By signing this document today, we further commit to continuing our work to provide care that is available, accessible and fair for everyone,” said Will.

When asked how the new signing will address accessibility — considering patients are being sent out of province to private practices for mammogram and other surgeries — Will said the health system is facing “pressures.”

“I think it’s more important than ever that we, you know, live our values, we live our commitment to patient and family centred care, and again, this document really expresses our commitment to do our best for the people that we serve,” said Will.

Andrew Will is wearing a suit and has a microphone stand in front of him
The CEO of the Saskatchewan Health Authority Andrew Will signed the patient rights and responsibilities agreement on Thursday at the City Hospital in Saskatoon. (Liam O’Connor/CBC)

Will said additional capacity at St. Paul’s and Royal University Hospital, and additional staffing, were added to help alleviate pressures.

Maureen Johns signed the document on Thursday as the patient-family representative.

She said SHA listened to underrepresented groups and “heard

Date from every Sarnia hospital patient in last 30 years stolen

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The records stolen in a sustained and devastating cyberattack against five southwestern Ontario hospitals includes information about every Sarnia patient in the last three decades, Bluewater Health said Thursday.

“All hospitals have some degree of patient and employee information affected,” the five affected institutions said Thursday in a joint statement. “All our hospitals are diligently investigating the stolen data to determine who is impacted. This difficult process will take time. All hospitals are committed to transparency and will provide regular updates as we learn more.”

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Costco sued for unlawfully sharing pharmacy patient health care data

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The suit was filed in Washington Western District Court by four Costco customers who used the retailer’s pharmacy services via its website or app. / Photo: Shutterstock

Several members of Costco Wholesale have initiated a federal class-action lawsuit claiming the warehouse club giant illegally shared personal health information.

Filed on Friday in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, the suit alleges that online activity-tracking technology used by Costco—including Meta Pixel code from Facebook parent Meta Platforms—captured sensitive and personally identifiable health data while these customers interacted with the Costco Pharmacy website and/or mobile app and transmitted that information to third parties, including Meta, without their consent.

Issaquah, Washington-based Costco couldn’t immediately be reached by Winsight Grocery Business for comment on the lawsuit, titled Castillo et al v. Costco Wholesale Corporation.

The four plaintiffs are California residents and Costco Pharmacy patients. According to the case documents, they ordered new prescriptions and refills; searched for medications, drug pricing and Medicare supplemental insurance; reviewed co-payment information; checked script pickup times; communicated with pharmacy staff; and provided “personal, private and highly sensitive information” while using the retailer’s pharmacy website or app.

Costco’s use of Pixel “compromised and disclosed to third parties”—without pharmacy patient authorization—such information as computer IP addresses, patient status, prescription details, vaccinations, treatments, patient location and health insurance coverage, as well as unique identifiers used to link patients’ private communications through the website to their Facebook accounts, the complaint said. All four plaintiffs indicated they generally remained logged into their Facebook accounts while online with Costco Pharmacy.

“Specifically, Defendant [Costco] used the sensitive information to gain additional insights into its patients and prospective patients, improve its return on its marketing dollars and, ultimately, to increase revenue. Costco encouraged Plaintiffs and the Class
Members [pharmacy customers] to access and use

‘What did the doctor say?’ Boosting health literacy falls on more than just the patient

doctor visit
Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain

The responsibility of understanding what a health care professional is saying during a visit to the doctor’s office falls on more than just the patient.

That obligation to ensure individuals can access and comprehend basic health information in order to make health-related decisions is shared by the doctor, nurse, health insurance provider and even public health officials—perhaps even more so than the patient, said Dr. Michael Paasche-Orlow, a primary care physician and vice chair for research at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.

It can be tough enough for people to navigate the complex health care and health insurance systems.

“A clinician might come into the room and talk jargon all the time. Or public health messages might be confusing,” said Paasche-Orlow, also a professor of medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine.

A comprehensive philosophy for addressing heath literacy is embraced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which updated its Healthy People 2030 plan to cover two definitions of health literacy.

Personal health literacy is the degree to which individuals have the ability to find, understand and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others, according to the federal plan. Organizational health literacy is the degree to which organizations equitably enable individuals to find, understand and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.

This changed from the 2020 plan that provided just one definition focused on the individual.

Research suggests most adults in the U.S. struggle with health literacy. Limited health literacy “has profound costs for individual and public health” and has been associated with poorer overall health status, higher health care costs and an increased likelihood of rehospitalization and death, according to a 2018 scientific statement from the American

21st Century Cures Act information-blocking rule has no impact on patient complaints in radiology

The information-blocking rule under the 21st Century Cures Act—requiring providers to grant patients immediate access to their radiology reports—appears to have no impact on patient complaints.

That’s according to a new single-center analysis from Vanderbilt University Medical Center published Friday in JAMA Health Forum [1]. The Cures Act first went into effect in December 2016 and entered its first compliance phase in April 2021. It aims to help increase patient access to health information, also including consultation notes, physical exams, lab and pathology work, and discharge summaries.

To better understand the law’s impact, researchers at VUMC analyzed nearly 8,500 unsolicited patient complaints logged at their institution between 2020 and 2022. They found that such grievances increased from over 3,000 in the year leading up to the information-blocking rule’s implementation to nearly 5,500 in the year after.

“In this cohort study with interrupted time-series analysis, the Cures Act [information-blocking rule] was not associated with a change in the monthly rate of [unsolicited patient complaints] at a large academic medical center,” lead author Robert J. Dambrino IV, MD, with Vanderbilt’s Department of Health Policy, and colleagues wrote Sept. 29. “A qualitative review of the complaints suggests that there are unintended consequences of complex medical information being immediately available to patients. Further study of the effects of this legislative mandate with multi-institutional data and a longer time horizon may be helpful for further understanding of this law’s effect on [unsolicited patient complaints].”

Prior to Jan. 1, 2021, Vanderbilt’s policy was to release radiology reports three business days after results were available, pathology reports 15 calendar days later, and to never electronically share clinical notes. After the law change went into effect, the Tennessee institution began providing immediate access to all three via its patient portal.

After the rule went into effect, topics

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