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Medical & Healthcare Staffing Agency

$95,000 in fines? Privacy IS important!

California state officials have fined hospital chain Prime Healthcare Services Inc. $95,000 for disclosing patient privacy and confidentiality by sharing a woman’s medical files with journalists as well as sending an email about her treatment to 785 hospital employees.

The California Department of Public Health levied the fine this month after determining in May that Shasta Regional Medical Center in Redding had five faults related to the violations and unauthorized disclosures of medical information on a diabetes patient treated there.

Prime Healthcare believes that the disclosures were permitted under both federal and state law. “Shasta Regional Medical Center is committed to the privacy of its patients,” company spokesman Edward Barrera said.

California Watch, a nonprofit news organization, published a story featuring a patient Darlene Courtois and alleged that the hospital was overbilling Medicare. The disclosures that were made by the hospital were enclosed in a response to that story. And, the alleged breach of patient privacy was revealed in a column in the Los Angeles Times on Jan 4.

Barrera said the hospital offender was terminated after discovering the problem. But, he said the company “believes the fine is excessive and has appealed the findings and penalties.”

All of these confusions could’ve been avoided with simple reference to HIPAA guidelines.  You can read more about the rules, standards and implementations for Health Information Privacy by visiting the HIPAA – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website.

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