New questions about patient privacy at North Country Hospital - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

New questions about patient privacy at North Country Hospital

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North Country Hospital in Newport received a regulatory citation from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid after two unauthorized employees viewed confidential medical records. It was discovered last fall that the hospital was not conducting proper surveillance when CMS made an unannounced visit.

"Medical information from two patients' records was accessed by two people without, who did have the need to know, they were not involved in the individual's direct care," said Fran Keeler of the Vt. Division of Licensing and Protection.

Newport residents say this breach raises concerns about patient privacy.

"You have to know your records are safe. People shouldn't be looking at records that they're not entitled to look at," said Brandie Barton of Newport.

"Employees are one of the hardest things you look for in the business now. It's not the customers you can't trust, it's the employees you can't trust," said George Azur, a store owner.

This isn't the first time there have been privacy concerns at North Country Hospital. Last year, an employee removed a laptop that was believed to have confidential information. Now, to address this most recent situation, the hospital is working on a plan to make sure it doesn't happen again.

"The hospital has responded to the regulatory citation by putting forward an automated auditing system that once it's fully implemented, should alert them of any such occurrence in the future," Keeler said.

Hospital officials declined an on camera interview, but Wendy Franklin, the director of development and community relations read a statement over the phone: "Our corrective action is the implementation of a system that will do random audits to assure compliance for our patient care records."

The hospital's Medicare and Medicaid program will not be terminated as a result of the breach. The hospital plans to have a new system in place by Feb. 15.

Before the breach, North Country Hospital employees operated on an honor system. They promise confidentiality upon employment and hospital officials say they trust that employees follow the rules when it comes to confidential records.

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