Three plead guilty to accessing slain anchor's medical records

A physician and two former employees of the St. Vincent Health System pleaded guilty today to misdemeanor federal charges for accessing the medical records of slain television anchor Anne Pressly, the U.S. attorney’s office and FBI announced.

Dr. Jay Holland and Candida Griffin, both of Little Rock, and Sarah Elizabeth Miller of England, appeared separately before U.S. Magistrate Henry L. Jones Jr. Each pleaded to a misdemeanor violation of health information privacy provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

The three admitted to accessing a patient’s record without any legitimate purpose. Each faces up to a year in prison and-or a fine of up to $50,000. Sentencing has not been set.

Pressly, a morning anchor for Little Rock television station KATV, was found severely beaten in her Little Rock home on Oct. 20. She died five days later without regaining consciousness.

Police arrested Curtis Lavelle Vance on a capital murder charge Nov. 26.

Officials at St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center suspended the hospital privileges of Holland, 56, for two weeks and required him to complete on-line HIPAA training.

St. Vincent fired Miller, 28, from her job as an account representative at the system’s Sherwood Campus and Griffin, 34, from her job as emergency room unit coordinator at the Little Rock hospital.

Read more in Arkansas News.

Although this is not the first time that there has been a prosecution under HIPAA, such cases are still exceedingly rare. And once again, it seems to be simple curiosity and not intention to sell or otherwise misuse protected health information. As we’ve discussed in another thread, although highly publicized cases where people are charged or experience severe consequences might be some small help in deterring snooping, it is almost certainly not enough.

Nor is this the first case where physicians have not been fired while non-physicians have been fired for the same offense. Does that seem fair or appropriate or justifiable to you?

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