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Year 2009

Medical Records Sent for Computerisation to India up for Sale

The Economic Times
19 October 2009
New Delhi, India

In a development that is certain to lead to a hardening of stance on the outsourcing industry by the western world, investigations conducted by a British TV channel have come up with the stunning revelation that confidential medical records sent to India for computerisation are being offered for sale, triggering heightened concerns about breach of data security here.

The revelation has forced police of the two countries to join hands to launch an official investigation into the data pilferage of the records stored by the Indian BPOs. If found true, the allegations could hit the flourishing BPO sector in India hard, fuelling doubts about their integrity and efficiency.

There is already a substantial public opinion building in the western world about the viability of outsourcing jobs to the developing countries, primarily India. In the run-up to the presidential election in the US, Barack Obama had advocated lifting of tax breaks to the American companies who ship jobs abroad.

The health records-for-sale investigation is scheduled to be broadcast on ITV on its Tonight programme on Monday.

Sall Anne Poole, head of investigations at the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), confirmed that an official probe had been launched to get to the bottom of things. “We are very concerned that private patients’ medical records are on sale in India. The ICO will establish the full facts and will then decide what action, if any, needs to be taken. Medical records are sensitive personal information and must be held securely,” she said.

The modus-operandi employed to procure the records was simple. Chris Rogers, the programme’s presenter, contacted two Indian salesmen through an internet chat room, and posed as a marketing executive keen on buying medical records to sell insurance and medicines.

Rogers bought 116 files with detailed medical records of British patients , from the two salesmen, whom the programme named as Jayesh Bagchandnani and Kunal Gargatti, the Daily Mail, a prominent British tabloid, reported on Sunday.

Bagchandnani reportedly said they came from staff at an Indian ‘transcription’ centre where medical records are computerised. Bagchandnani told Rogers: “We can do really good business with these leads. These leads will give you diagnose, entire diagnose of all the India’s top 10 BPO customers, what the customer is facing. There are 17 teams or you can say team managers. The floor managers, they are working as freelancers for me and I am telling them to pull the data for me. They work for me.”

Researchers for the programme then met Gargatti, in Mumbai. “You have the doctor’s name, doctor’s address, doctor’s phone number. Each and every thing here. I have 30,000 files to give you today, right now. I’ve around 140 diseases here. You just tell me which disease you’re looking out for – I can give you anything,” he told them.

The files procured were of patients of London Clinic, one of Britain’s top private hospitals. Several hospitals in the National Health Service have also outsourced their transcription to India, sparking concern over data safety following the latest investigation.

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