A data breach at a medical marijuana dispensary company operating in Canada has sent the personal health privacy of about 34,000 patients up in smoke.
An electronic medical record system used by Natural Health Services – a self-described “cannabinoid medical clinic that specializes in cannabis prescriptions” – was accessed for the duration of about a month, between Dec. 4 and Jan. 7.
Details on the hows and whys are scant for now, but the incident has sparked, if you will, a class-action lawsuit brought by the Diamond and Diamond personal injury firm against NHS and its parent company, Sunniva. It alleges that diagnostic results (including medical conditions, allergies, doctors’ notes, referrals and various forms), Canadian health-care card numbers and personal contact information (including name, age, gender, address and phone number) was exposed in the breach. No financial data was included.
“What is more integral than the preservation of our health information?” said Jeremy Diamond, manager partner at Diamond and Diamond, in a media statement. “All individuals that filled out these online forms could be affected by this egregious breach.”
The lead plaintiff in the case, Adele Worley-Burns, made a statement detailing the potential fallout for patients: “I was informed by my lawyer that this kind of a breach could possibly impact my insurance rates, ability to travel, and subject me to possible fraud. I feel violated on a variety of levels.”
The company operates seven marijuana clinics in Canada, and it said it was working with law enforcement in the case. However, despite being discovered in January, the company said that it started notifying patients just last week of the breach.
“We value our patients and understand the importance of protecting personal information and apologize to the patients whose personal information has been improperly accessed and for any frustration or inconvenience that this may cause,” said NHS president Mark Kimmins, speaking to the Canadian Press. “We are taking this situation very seriously and are taking the necessary steps to prevent a situation like this from happening again.”