Kaiser Bellflower is fined (another) $187,500 for privacy breach

The Kaiser Permanente hospital in Bellflower has been hit with a $187,500 fine for failing for a second time to prevent unauthorized access to confidential patient information, state pubic health officials said today.

[Updated at 3 p.m.: A spokesman for the hospital said the fine was part of the ongoing investigation into employees improperly accessing the medical records of Nadya Suleman and her children. Disciplinary action has been taken against the employees, said Jim Anderson, a hospital spokesman. All the incidents occurred in January; a previous post said they had occurred in April and May.]

State officials said Kaiser Permanente Bellflower Medical Center compromised the privacy of four patients when eight employees improperly accessed records. This is the second penalty against the hospital, officials said.

The hospital was fined $250,000 in May for failing to keep employees from snooping in the medical records of Nadya Suleman, the woman who set off a media frenzy after giving birth to octuplets in January.

Read more in the Los Angeles Times.  Keep in mind that this is not HHS fining them under HIPAA, but the state fining them.

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4 comments to “Kaiser Bellflower is fined (another) $187,500 for privacy breach”

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  1. Anonymous - July 17, 2009

    Do you think employees need more training or do you think the hospital needs to up its privacy regulations?

  2. Anonymous - July 17, 2009

    Putting aside those who might snoop on patient files with the intent of selling the info to a tabloid, you can train people and train people and train people, but you can’t train the curiosity out of them. Firing employees needs to happen and it may be a deterrent for some other employees, but as long as some employees leave files open or stay logged in and walk away from their desks, I think people will snoop.

    Maybe if files had an automatic time out/disconnect and maybe if every employee who wanted to access a file had to use a biometric identifier and a big “Your access to the file will be logged,” there might be fewer incidents (assuming that the logs are audited).

    I don’t know what system Kaiser uses, but I do know that they are not the only medical facility to have problems of this kind.

    What do you think needs to be done?

  3. Anonymous - July 17, 2009

    Agreed! You can only train so much. Hospitals, no let me rephrase that……the Healthcare industry in general needs to deliver harsher and more immediate sanctions on employees, especially those who have had “the training”. As my company prepares for the Red Flag Rules, I hope the HHS, OIG, and other oversight entities stay true to their word and hold violators accountable.

  4. Anonymous - July 17, 2009

    What does your company tell employees in terms of policy on this? Do they tell them, “one strike and you’re out” and enforce that policy? Not asking you to name your company, but does your company actually audit logs to see who’s accessing which files, etc.? Some facilities are putting special ‘flags’ on celebrities’ files/records, but there’s an awful lot of snooping that goes on that involves family members, neighbors, etc. who are not celebrities.

    Enforcement — as well as privacy protection and security – needs to start with the employer.

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