Report: State mental hospitals dealing with privacy breaches as patient records removed

AUSTIN, Texas — There have been five incidents in the last six months where patients’ health records have made their way out of some of Texas’ 10 public psychiatric facilities, according to a review of state records by a newspaper.

In one incident, an employee at Big Spring State Hospital in West Texas was fired after officials alleged she walked out of the facility with 50 patients’ protected health records, the Austin American-Statesman reported (http://bit.ly/1i0pZ2H ) Sunday.

In the other cases, which involved a total of about a dozen patients, officials determined that the breaches were caused by mistakes.

“This can’t happen,” said Christine Mann, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of State Health Services, which oversees the hospitals. “Our patients deserve privacy and expect that their information is kept confidential. We’re doing everything we can to figure out what happened and how to address it.”

Dr. Deborah Peel, the Austin founder of Patient Privacy Rights, a national watchdog group focused on the protection of medical records, said the multiple incidents at the Texas hospitals indicate a pattern of problems that raise questions about the hospital system’s ability to keep patient records safe.

“Incidents like this broadcast loud and clear that the place I go for help might not keep my information safe,” Peel said.

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