Protected Health Information Sent to Wrong Fax Receiver Over Many Months

Faxes having the protected health information (PHI) of a patient have been sent to a wrong receiver by OhioHealth’s Grant Medical Center over a period of many months – A breach of patient secrecy and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

The receiver of the faxes, Elizabeth Spilker, tried on many occasions to inform Grant Medical Center concerning the issue and stop the faxes being sent, however, her efforts were fruitless. She attempted faxing back a message on the same number demanding an alteration to the programmed fax number and tried getting in touch with the medical center by phone.

Spilker later informed ABC6 concerning the problem and the story was covered in a June 18 article. In the article, Spilker clarified that faxes had been received from Grant Medical Center for over a year. The messages had a variety of PHI including name, weight, medications prescribed, medical history, age, and other confidential health information.

Usually, the faxes were received at the end of the day. Recurrent attempts were made to send the information. The only method to stop the calls was to connect the fax machine and get the fax message.

ABC6 journalists spoke with Grant Medical Center in Columbus, OH, and warned staff about the issue. Consequently, a declaration was issued verifying the matter had been looked into and settled. OhioHealth also verified that the faxes had been transmitted over a 6-month duration, and not for a year as Elizabeth Spilker had described in the ABC6 news report.

“We carried out a detailed review and checking of our fax system records and found that three faxes were transmitted to the person in error because of a transposed fax number in one patient’s medical record,” OhioHealth explained in a declaration regarding the occurrence. “The fax number has been rectified and we’re reaching out to the patient concerned to make him or her conscious. Making sure the secrecy of our patients is a top priority at OhioHealth and we make an apology for this mistake.” All faxes received by Ms. Spilker have now been torn so there is no danger of additional exposures of PHI.