Sunday, May 27 , 2018, 10:42 pm | Fair 58º


Local News


Santa Barbara Public Health Notifying Patients After Employee Accessed Records Without Authorization

[Noozhawk’s note: Click here for a related story on a second electronic health records security breach incident in Santa Barbara County.]

Some 260 patients with records in the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department will receive notification letters explaining that a Health Care Center employee illegally accessed their personal health information.

The department announced the unauthorized data breach Wednesday, saying a staff member accessed electronic information for an unapproved academic research project.

“The Public Health Department deeply regrets this incident,” said department director Dr. Takashi Wada.

“At this point in the investigation, we have no reason to believe any identifying information has been shared outside our department.”

The Public Health Department completed an investigation into the incident, and the staff member in question has since been denied access to any additional patient information.

Whether the employee has been disciplined further or fired wasn’t something the department could share, since it’s a personnel issue, said Susan Klein-Rothschild, community health deputy director.

She also couldn’t share where the staff member worked.

“We wanted to be very transparent with the public,” Klein-Rothschild said.

The Public Health Department is cooperating with the State Department of Health Care Services, informing patients whose information was inappropriately accessed.

“Depending upon the nature of each case, credit monitoring has been offered to patients in accordance with the regulations,” the department said.

“Unless further information becomes available, no further action by the Public Health Department or the state is anticipated.”

Because of the incident, Wada said all Health Care Center staff were being retrained, adhering to standards that place the highest importance in the confidentiality of personal information according to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) laws.

“Privacy and security are a priority at the Pubic Health Department,” he said.

While the Public Health Department itself is running reports all the time to spot certain trends, Wada said outside agencies or internal employees rarely request access to information on an aggregated level.

Even when they do, he said, the department must evaluate each request on a case-by-case basis.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Supporter

Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >