We have written about various HIPAA breaches but this breach is much easier to identify with. An article over at The Tampa Bay Times explains how a patient’s secret was exposed by a relative that was snooping in an EHR. Not only did the relative access her family member’s records inappropriately but she breached her privacy by telling other members of the patient’s family.
Jennifer Jones got pregnant 5 years ago and delivered a baby girl at Tampa General Hospital and placed for adoption. She didn’t want anyone to know of what she had done and made sure not to tell family members.
But a relative whose job as a nurse gave her access to the hospital’s medical records went snooping and found out anyway.
The breach came to light only recently, after Jones’ secret was aired at a family funeral.
Jones and her longtime partner, David Harrison, wanted to keep the experience quiet, and thought they could since court records were sealed. But in 2010, his aunt, Nadine McNew, found out about Jones’ 2008 birth and several others. She gave printouts to another family member, Jones said.
Tampa General and USF officials acknowledged the breach, but declined to discuss details, citing patient privacy laws.
University records show McNew worked at USF from November 2009 to August 2012. She was rehired in late 2012 and fired on June 6.
Patients hope that their information is private and protected. When that privacy is breached patients are exposed to a variety of negative outcomes.
“The damage is done,” said the 29-year-old, who is raising two sons out of the area. “I am the one who has to live with the fear of someone telling my children, or just knowing deep down that people that I don’t know very well have a very deep dark secret of mine that I didn’t want them to know. That’s a scary feeling.”
It is critical for employees to be educated on their responsibilities to protect patient information. They also need to know that if they fail to protect patient information they can be fired. Unauthorized access to patient information occurs too much and has the ability to hurt patients if the information is exposed. Not all patients have a secret to hide but all expect that their records will be protected and held in confidentiality.[framed_box bgColor=”#ffd390″]
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All Covered Entities and Business Associates need to train their employees on HIPAA security. We now offer free online HIPAA security training for Covered Entities and Business Associates. Find out more about our free training and send the information to ALL your colleagues and Business Associates.
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