OCR should fine entities that close and just dump patient records

Seriously. How many times will see news reports of how medical practices closed their doors and just dumped patient records? Here’s another case this week, reported by WSFA in Alabama, who made great efforts to track down someone – anyone – who might be able to help identify the culprit (and yes, I use the word “culprit” with all its implications):

Medical records were found Monday in an open air dumpster behind a former medical clinic called AllMed on Eastchase Parkway near Minnie Brown Road in east Montgomery.

The records included prescriptions, lab results, names of patients and their birthdays — all considered Private (sic) Health Information under HIPAA privacy laws.

[…]

AllMed, which operated under the partnership name of Central Alabama Primary Care Specialists or CAPCS, closed its clinics without warning in July. The company has since filed for bankruptcy.

When the clinics suddenly closed in July, they posted a note on their door that said, in part:

All medical records of past visits at the AllMed clinics are safeguarded and will be available upon request. The phone number for such request will be available as soon as possible. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.  

They have an interesting concept of “safeguarded,” it seems.

Read more on WSFA. And yes, I would really like to see OCR hand out a hefty monetary penalty for this type of thing. While there are some that might think that unreasonable or harsh – to fine an entity that went into bankruptcy – I think OCR needs to send a strong message that if you think you had financial problems before, wait until we go after for you for improperly safeguarding and discarding patient records.

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