Wednesday, October 22, 2003


Maybe doin bizness at home ain't so bad after all:

A woman in Pakistan doing cut-rate clerical work for UCSF Medical Center threatened to post patients' confidential files on the Internet unless she was paid more money.To show she was serious, the woman sent UCSF an e-mail earlier this month with actual patients' records attached.

The violation of medical privacy - apparently the first of its kind - highlights the danger of "offshoring" work that involves sensitive materials, an increasing trend among budget-conscious U.S. companies and institutions.

U.S. laws maintain strict standards to protect patients' medical data. But those laws are virtually unenforceable overseas, where much of the labor- intensive transcribing of dictated medical notes to written form is being exported.

"This was an egregious breach," said Tomi Ryba, chief operating officer of UCSF Medical Center. "We took this very, very seriously."

She stressed that the renowned San Francisco facility is not alone in facing the risk of patients' confidential information being used as leverage by unscrupulous members of the increasingly global health-care industry.