Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Medical Assistant Fired for "Shoulder Surfing" and Breaching Patient Data Privacy

A hospital at the University of Iowa fired a full-time medical assistant for breaching patient privacy by "shoulder surfing".

The medical assistant, who had been employed by the hospital since 1994, is accused of looking over the shoulder of a co-worker while he was examining a patient's medical record. The medical assistant claimed she only did this to see if the co-worker was examining a patient's medical record without authorization.

The medical assistant then reported the co-worker and provided information about the patient being accessed to her supervisor. In response, the hospital fired her because she violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) not just once, when she looked at the patient records over her co-worker's shoulder but a second time when she gave her supervisor information about that patient.
"A hospital spokesman declined to comment on the case and declined to say whether Sterner's unidentified co-worker was fired." - The DesMoines Register
The medical assistant had reportedly been previously disciplined for patient data privacy breaches, as well as, attendance and work performance. After she was fired, she applied for unemployment benefits but the hospital fought her application. The judge ruled against the hospital saying it had not proven any work-related misconduct.
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Previous breaches of patient data privacy at this hospital. Sources:
(a) 2 fired at University of Iowa Hospitals for peeking at records - The DesMoines Register, June 21, 2011
(b) UIHC fires 2 employees for patient-privacy violations - Press-Citizen, June 21, 2011

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