Health Care Must Take HIPAA Privacy Rules Seriously

2009-07-17 09:07

Hospitals and health care workers are finding out the hard way that HIPAA privacy rules must be taken seriously. Two recent examples have been in the news recently.

In Little Rock Arkansas, Dr Jay Holland (a primary care physician), Candida Griffin (a hospital emergency room coordinator), and Sarah Elizabeth Miller (patient account representative) were in court in late June. The U.S. District Court prosecutors filed charges against the three. If convicted of improperly accessing the records of KATV anchorwoman Anne Pressly in October 2008, each may face up to a year in prison and $50,000 fine .

Kaiser Permanente’s Bellflower Hospital is also finding out how serious federal officials are about HIPAA privacy rules. This current incident involves the records of Nadya Suleman's octuplets. The hospital has been fined $187,500 for failing to protect their medical privacy.

Kaiser Permanente’s Bellflower Hospital apparently didn’t take seriously it’s role in protecting patient’s medical records as this is the second time it has been fined. The first was in May for employees looking at Suleman’s medical information. The find then was $250,000.

St. Vincent Hospital in Little Rock, AR fired as many as six people in November for looking at Pressly’s records. Kaiser officials have said a total of 27 people looked at either the Suleman's or the babies' records without authorization: Altogether, two were fired, nine were disciplined, and 16 resigned.

Hospitals and employees can be fined and prosecuted for failure to protect patient privacy. The three in Arkansas face possible jail time. The hospital in California has been fined large amounts of money. Both hospitals lost employees.

Sources
HIPAA
Associated Press article
Arkansas Democrat Gazette article Doctor, ex-hospital employees charged over Pressly records (subscription required) written by Linda Satter
3 charged with getting TV anchor's medical records by Jon Gambrell (subscription required)

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