HEU calls for investigation of private lab billing practices

News release

Vancouver woman asks union to deliver patient information she received by e-mail to health minister The Hospital Employees' Union is calling on Health Minister Mike Farnworth to launch an investigation into the management of diagnostic lab billings and other confidential patient information by private companies. The call comes after it was revealed in today's Province newspaper that MDS Metro Labs, a diagnostic lab company, had transmitted the billing information for hundreds of lab tests for Kamloops-area patients to a Vancouver woman's home e-mail. She also received personnel policies and payroll information from the company. HEU will hand over the information to the health ministry on the woman's behalf today. "British Columbians need to be confident that their confidential patient information is secure," says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. "Thatís why weíre calling on the Minister of Health to investigate this serious breach of patient confidentiality." MDS has been actively marketing its lab information systems in British Columbia, most recently in the Capital Health Region. Last summer, the company created a new business partnership called MDS Health Research Inc. The purpose of the new venture is to provide health care-related market research services for pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers, insurance companies and government agencies. MDS is also involved with another private lab company, B.C. Biomedical Laboratories, in a joint venture to develop a diagnostic information management system thatís being tested in physicians' offices. "We also want the Minister to broaden his investigation to include the role of the private sector in marketing the medical information of British Columbians," says Allnutt. "It's important that patient health information is available for public health planning while safeguarding confidentiality. Patient information shouldnít be stripmined for marketing purposes."