Nurse Who Shared Patient Data with New Firm gets 1-Year Suspension

June 13, 2018


A nurse medical practitioner who breached the secrecy of patients by sharing their interaction information with her new boss has been banned for 12 months by the New York State Education Division.

In April 2015, Martha C. Smith-Lightfoot obtained a spreadsheet having the personally identifiable information of about 3,000 patients of University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and disclosed that information to her new boss, Greater Rochester Neurology.

The secrecy breach was noted when numerous patients protested to URMC concerning being communicated by Greater Rochester Neurology regarding changing healthcare suppliers.

Before leaving URMC, Smith-Lightfoot requested data on patients she has cured to guarantee continuity of treatment.  URMC provided her with a spreadsheet that contained names, dates of birth, addresses, and diagnoses. URMC didn’t give Smith-Lightfoot consent to take the spreadsheet with her when she left her job with them.

Providing the patient list to Greater Rochester Neurology was an impermissible revelation of PHI and a breach of the HIPAA Secrecy Law. When it became clear what had happened, URMC got in touch with Greater Rochester Neurology and the list was given back.

The secrecy breach was made known to the Division of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR), as needed by HIPAA, and the New York attorney general. OCR looked into the occurrence, however, closed the case without issuing any financial fines, even though the attorney general Eric Schneiderman penalized URMC $15,000 for the HIPAA breach.

Criminal fines were not sought versus Smith-Lightfoot, even though the matter was looked into by the New York State Education Department which releases licenses for the occupations.

Smith-Lightfoot confessed sharing personally identifiable patient information to her new bosses and, in November 2017, initialed a consent-order with the state nursing board Office for Professional Discipline. That approval order was accepted by the Board of Regents in February.

Along with the 1-year suspension of her license, Smith-Lightfoot got a 12-month continued suspension and faces a two-year probation when she comes back to work.