A number of Workers of Washington Health System Suspended for HIPAA Breaches

June 28, 2018


After what is supposed to have been incorrect retrieving of patient health files by staff members, Washington Health System has decided to suspend a number of staff members while the secrecy breach is studied.

Although it has not been disclosed how many staff members have been suspended, Washington Health System VP of strategy and clinical facilities, Larry Pantuso, issued a statement to the Observer Reporter showing about a dozen staff members have been suspended, even though at this stage, no workers have been relieved of the positions for incorrect medical record access.

The secrecy breaches are thought to link to the demise of a staff member of the WHS Neighbor Health Center. Kimberly Dollard, 57, was killed when an out of control car driven by Chad Spence, aged 43, crashed into the building where she worked. Spence and one other person were dashed to the hospital after suffering injuries in the mishap.

Pantuso didn’t say if this was the occurrence that resulted in the workers to retrieve patients’ medical files, even though he did verify that the claimed incorrect access connected to a “high profile case.”

The retrieving of medical pasts without any authentic work reason for doing so is a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA only lets the retrieving of PHI by workers for payment, treatment, or healthcare operations.

Any healthcare staff member supposed to have infringed HIPAA Laws confronts punitive action which can include termination, suspension, loss of license and, possibly, criminal allegations.

There have been a lot of fresh occurrences where workers have been fired for prying on the medical files of high profile patients.

In February 2018, 13 staff members at the Medical University of South Carolina were sacked for HIPAA violations after they saw the medical files of patients without approval, a lot of whom logged onto the medical files of high profile patients.

Among the most recent measures taken against a healthcare staff member for a HIPAA violation was taken by the New York nursing board’s Office for Professional Discipline. Martha Smith-Lightfoot was provided with a list of patients before leaving her work at University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) to start a new job at Greater Rochester Neurology. Smith-Lightfoot provided that list to her new boss and patients were called in an attempt to attract business.

Smith-Lightfoot initialed an approval order with the nursing board taking the blame for the violation and had her license to practice suspended for one year, got a deferred suspension for 12 months and three years of probation when she ultimately returns to practice.

Looking at medical files is likely to be found as logs are generated when health files are logged onto. Those logs are occasionally studied and if incorrect PHI access is noticed it is likely to lead to termination and will make it difficult to get future work in the healthcare sector.