Hospital doctors still using unsecured memory sticks despite warnings

Hospital doctors are risking the loss of confidential patient information with the widespread use of unprotected memory sticks, say two clinicians.

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Hospital doctors are risking the loss of confidential patient information with the widespread use of unprotected memory sticks, say two clinicians.

A survey at a teaching hospital in London, by two unnamed clinicians, found that 92 out of 105 of their colleagues held memory sticks. Of these, 79 memory sticks held confidential patient information, but only five were password-protected.

The clinicians told Health Service Journal, "People have hundreds of thousands of kilobytes of patient information on these sticks"

One of the clinicians, a surgical registrar, told HSJ the unsecured memory sticks included patient names and dates of birth, alongside information such as X-ray results, diagnoses and treatment details.

They said this was a clear breach of data security, and that unless "urgent action is taken", the NHS will be the subject of further data security scandals.

This year there have been reported memory stick losses at hospital trusts at Stockport and Lothian. The trust in Hackney, north-east London, encrypted all its memory sticks, laptops and other hardware after two computer disks went missing.

A Department of Health spokesman told HSJ, "Any breach of patient security is unacceptable. We would urge HSJ to provide details of the survey to the relevant trust so they can take appropriate action to protect patient confidentiality."

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