Asante provides healthcare services in southern Oregon and northern California.
On February 28, it issued a notice about an insider-wrongdoing incident. As they describe it on their site, they became aware of a concern that a doctor with admitting privileges, Dr. Paul Hoffman, may have accessed a number of patients’ records without a valid clinical need.
“Dr. Hoffman is not an employee of Asante but had access to Asante’s electronic health record system in order to treat his patients when they are seen at Asante facilities,” their notice explains.
Asante’s investigation, which took place between December 20, 2022 and February 14, 2023, found a number of his accesses between June 12, 2014 and January 3, 2023 did not appear to have a valid reason.
The patient information accessed included patients’ names, as well as demographic, diagnostic, and treatment information. Dr. Hoffman reportedly did not have access to patients’ full social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, or payment card or bank account information.
Asante immediately terminated Dr. Hoffman’s access to its EHR system and indicated that they were referring his conduct to the Oregon Medical Board.
Perhaps anticipating some questions about why this wasn’t detected earlier, Asante’s notice includes a statement that they utilize electronic auditing systems that review every user’s access to its electronic health record system and attempts to identify cases of inappropriate access.
“In light of this incident, Asante is evaluating whether additional measures can be put in place to more quickly detect potentially inappropriate access to medical information by authorized users.”
While Asante believes that Dr. Hoffman accessed records out of curiosity rather than for fraudulent purposes, the incident is concerning as a violation of privacy. Asante has established a dedicated, toll-free call center is available for individuals to call with questions or concerns:
(866) 674-4359 Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.
This incident was reported to HHS as impacting 8,834 patients.
A search of the Oregon Medical Board license verification site conducted today does not yet indicate any pending investigation or new charges against Dr. Hoffman. Dr. Hoffman is listed as a General Surgery Specialist in Ashland, Oregon. The Oregon board records reveals that in response to disciplinary action, Dr. Hoffman voluntarily agreed to stop performing colonoscopies in Oregon in 2009; a voluntary revocation that continues to this day.
Dr. Hoffman’s license to practice medicine in California was revoked by that state in 2011 for failure to respond to accusations stemming from the Oregon case.