PA: Geisinger Berwick notifying hundreds of patients after firing employee for improper access to records

Geisinger Berwick is notifying more than 700 patients whose patients’ records were accessed without justification by a now-former employee.  As first reported by Times Leader, the improper access began in June 2019 and would likely still be continuing were it not for an employee that reported their concern about the employee’s actions to the clinic on June 3.
Geisinger has now issued the following notification on their site:

BERWICK, Pa. – Geisinger has notified certain patients that their protected health information (PHI) may have been accessed by an individual employee in a non-permitted manner.

On June 3, 2020, Geisinger’s Privacy Office was alerted by a member of the workforce that a Geisinger Clinic employee was possibly accessing medical records without a business need to do so. An investigation was started immediately and concluded on September 8, 2020.  Although the employee was permitted to access medical records as part of their daily job responsibilities, the investigation found that the employee inappropriately accessed over 700 patients’ records between June 2019 and June 2020 without a valid business need. As a result of the investigation, the individual is no longer employed at Geisinger.

Additionally, we reviewed the employee’s network activities and did not find any evidence that the employee retained or removed any of the information. While the investigation did not reveal any evidence of malicious intent, the information that may have been viewed by the employee included: name, date of birth, medical record number, dates of service, social security number, address, phone number, medical conditions, diagnoses, medications, treatment information and other clinical notes.

“At Geisinger, protecting our patients’ and members’ privacy is of the utmost importance and we are constantly working on safeguards and protocols to identify incidents such as these so we can prevent such occurrences in the future,” said Geisinger Chief Privacy Officer, Jonathan Friesen. “Our investigation leads us to believe that this information was not accessed to commit financial fraud or harm; however, out of an abundance of caution we are providing affected patients one year of identity theft protection free of charge.”

Detailed credit monitoring and identity theft protection enrollment instructions were provided to affected patients in their notification letters.

For those affected by this incident, Geisinger has established a toll-free number at 844-929-2293 which is available from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time) Monday through Friday.

About Geisinger

Geisinger is committed to making better health easier for the more than 1.5 million consumers it serves. Founded more than 100 years ago by Abigail Geisinger, the system now includes 13 hospital campuses, a 600,000-member health plan, two research centers and the Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. With 32,000 employees and 1,800 employed physicians, Geisinger boosts its hometown economies in Pennsylvania and New Jersey by billions of dollars annually. For more information, visit www.geisinger.org, or connect with us on FacebookInstagramLinkedIn and Twitter.

Kudos to the ethical employee who sounded the alarm.  Hopefully Geisinger is looking into software solutions that could improve their ability to detect and prevent improper employee access to records.

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