Online Comments Lead To Privacy Complaint

Karen Welles of WPXI reports:

From April 2003 until the end of last year, the federal government has received nearly 1,500 complaints from patients in Pennsylvania, alleging privacy violations under HIPAA.

One case has angered local women so much that they switched doctors. It centers on a myspace page created in the name of Stephanie Sicilia, an employee of local doctor Paul Zubritzky.

Target 11 interviewed two women who did not want to be identified. We’ll call them Carmella and Bailey. The doctor delivered “Carmella’s” two children, but when she saw the myspace comments, she found a new OB/GYN.

These are some of the comments, according to printouts one of the women saved: “Today is straight from hell!! I had enough yelling, swearing, bleeding, crying (expletive)” A woman’s abortions are mentioned. Another patient is ridiculed for asking about gingerbread cookies the doctor recommended for nausea, “Some women shouldn’t reproduce.”

“Bailey” left Dr. Zubritzky’s practice mid-pregnancy after reading the comments. She said, “These women trusted her to keep their files secret and she was putting it all over the internet.”

“Carmella” filed a complaint with HIPAA. Dr. Joan Kiel, the HIPAA Compliance Officer for Duquesne University says, “HIPAA only allows sharing of information for treatment, payment and health care operations and this clearly doesn’t fall into any of those.”

Dr. Zubritzky told Target 11 he had heard a HIPAA complaint had been filed in this incident, but both he and Stephanie Sicilia declined interviews.

HIPAA violations can have serious consequences. In July, a Seattle health care provider had to pay $100,000 and a former cancer clinic employee was sentenced to 16 months in a federal prison, both penalties for violating patients’ privacy.

Thanks to Rob Douglas of for sending us this link.

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