VA employee hoarded stacks of patient-related info at home

Paper is much more problematic than electronic data, according to Veterans Affairs CIO Roger Baker.

Here's an example that popped to mind as he gave a press briefing last Friday on potential data breaches. A VA employee has been hoarding patient-related information for years, Baker said. One 10' x 10' room was completely filled with stacks of newspapers and VA papers.
The VA is still going through the stacks to determine whether any patient health or privacy information was compromised. But risk of exposure was pretty low, he said. "If any of you have information on technology that will scan people for paper as they leave our facilities and set off an alarm, boy would I like to hear about it," he said.

In other news, several VA Medical Center residents and employees have used external websites to store unsecured patient information, according to the VA report. Baker said the VA has been wrestling with the use of eternal websites to store information needed by residents who frequently work at multiple hospitals during the day and need to be able to have instant access to information on their patients. In addition, for board certifications, they need to be able to track what roles they played in surgery. That way, when they're up for certification, they'll have a full set of documents that describe what they've done.

"What's become clear to us is that in this very mobile world, our tools aren't exactly what the doctors need," Baker said. While the use of the external websites is in every instance password protected, the VA is investigating whether any privacy issues are involved. It's possible that the VA could decide to use the external websites to allow access to certain information that the doctors need to have, he said. "That would be a big change for the VA."

To learn more:
- read the VA data incident report
- listen to the audio of the press call

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