Friday, February 4, 2011

Hospital Faces Civil Lawsuit Over Patient Privacy

A former patient has filed a civil lawsuit against a regional medical center in Salisbury, North Carolina for negligence, defamation, slander and invasion of privacy. Also named in the lawsuit are the hospital's corporate parent and two hospital employees. The plaintiff alleged that the hospital inappropriately used and disclosed her electronic protected health information (ePHI) and a hospital employee harassed her and her family.
The plaintiff is asking for punitive and compensatory damages exceeding $10,000 from each defendant, as well as a restraining order and injunction preventing the defendants from disclosing or disseminating any of her confidential health records.
Patient Privacy Auditing Stops Lawsuits and Fines
Separately, the former patient filed a HIPAA Privacy Rule complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (HSS/OCR). A subsequent patient privacy audit did not show any hospital employees had inappropriately accessed the patient's electronic medical records (EMR). "We comply with federal laws that require healthcare providers to have the ability to produce audit trails for access to patient records,” said a hospital spokeswoman.
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While Federal investigators found no violation, the hospital has agreed to provide training on safeguarding the privacy of electronic health records (EHR) to the employees in the departments covered by the complaint.

NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN THIS CASE (a)
The investigation into this violation of patient privacy rights at the hospital has been reopened by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights. Asked about the reopened investigation the hospital spokesperson said, “We will fully cooperate with the Office of Civil Rights and actively assist them throughout this investigation.”
Our employees and physician partners each take our obligation to protect every patient’s privacy seriously,” - Hospital spokesperson.
Sources:
(a) Federal agency reviews hospital complaint - salisburypost.com, February 2, 2011
(b) Hospital named in complaint over privacy - salisburypost.com, January 8, 2011

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