Cardiologists in Victoria have become embroiled in a legal dispute over the use of patient records by a practitioner who left one clinic and set up his own practice.
The owners of a Heart Of Melbourne clinic operating in the town of Mildura have obtained an injunction against a former colleague who they say accessed records of patients from their Health Track database after he set up a competing cardiology practice in the town.
In a case heard at the Supreme Court of Victoria, Dr Nima Rudd was ordered to stop using the records of patients from the Heart of Melbourne clinic where he worked from 2017 as a contractor.
As well as surrendering the records, the injunction also ordered him to stop using posters to suggest the Heart of Melbourne clinic had closed or that it was affiliated with a bulk-billing GP practice in the town, which might deter referrals from non bulk-billing GPs in the area.
Dr Rudd claimed that when he worked at Heart of Melbourne he had a verbal agreement with the owners that he would become a co-director and co-owner, but this assertion was denied by the company. He also contributed $30,000 towards the costs of a new clinic, but the money was returned after he stopped working for the clinic in July 2020.
He said that when setting up his own clinic he used his own notes and records that he kept in respect of patients that he saw while working at the clinic.
However the court heard evidence from Dr Vivek Mutha, a director and part-owner of the company that operates the Heart of Melbourne clinic, showing that Dr Rudd had accessed their Health Track database on his iPad using an employee’s password.
When he opened his own practice, ‘Dr Rudd Cardiology, he contacted 30-40 patients he had treated while at the plaintiff’s clinic, to inform them he had opened his own clinic.
But the Heart of Melbourne clinic owners claimed that Dr Rudd was accessing the Health Track database to “springboard” his business – and that some of the patients he contacted had never been his patients.
The judge accepted that there had been a breach of confidence in respect to the patient records, granting an injunction against them being used by Dr Rudd, and that they should be returned.
However he made an exception in the case of patients who he had already consulted at the new clinic, and for patients who gave permission for their records to be provided to Dr Rudd.
The judge noted there was a dispute between the two parties over what had been said about the doctor and his new clinic, but this matter would be resolved in a separate trial.