A COVID-19 testing clinic has assured the community strangers cannot receive their identifying personal information after a woman reported her test result was sent to the wrong phone number.
The woman told the Bendigo Advertiser she was tested for novel coronavirus in late April at the Bendigo Respiratory Clinic in Spring Gully after experiencing mild symptoms and, as an essential worker, was told the processing of her test would be fast-tracked.
A week later she still had not received her result and when she called the clinic, she discovered it had been sent via text message, but the phone number it was sent to differed from hers by two digits.
The woman said the number she entered online when booking the appointment was correct as she received a confirmation text, and it was confirmed with her twice when she went to have her test.
Dr Ewa Piejko, director of the federal government-funded clinic, said the mistake was likely due to human error.
She said there were checks and balances to avoid mistakes, such as multiple checks of phone numbers with patients and having two people working together on sending out results when possible.
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But she said the information sent to patients was entered manually into the phone, and it was impossible to avoid the potential for human error.
"We're doing enormous amounts of tests and there's an enormous amount of follow-up, and a lot of it is quite manual," Dr Piejko said.
But Dr Piejko said the texts were not sent out with any identifying information unless multiple members of the same family nominated the same phone number, in which case their results might be differentiated by first name only.
She said positive results were relayed to the patient via a phone call, at which time their identity would be confirmed, rather than text message.
So far, Dr Piejko said, the clinic had conducted more than 1600 swab tests.
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The woman whose test was sent to the wrong number said the time spent waiting was quite stressful and she not only had to stay inside her home, but tried to isolate herself from the rest of her family within the house.
"I was really quite anxious," she said. She tested negative.
Dr Piejko said people awaiting test results were advised to call the clinic back if they had not received their result within five working days.
The Bendigo Respiratory Clinic is funded by the federal government to assess and test people with respiratory symptoms.
A Health Department spokesperson said it was the responsibility of testing clinicians or health services to organise arrangements to contact patients with their COVID-19 test results, regardless of jurisdiction.
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