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PHI Dumping Leads to $800K HIPAA Settlement

June 23, 2014
by Rajiv Leventhal
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The Fort Wayne, Ind.-based Parkview Health System will pay $800,000 and adopt a corrective action plan to address deficiencies in its Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance program, according to a settlement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

OCR opened an investigation after receiving a complaint from a retiring physician alleging that Parkview—which provides community-based healthcare to individuals in northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio—had violated the HIPAA Privacy Rule.  In September 2008, Parkview took custody of medical records pertaining to approximately 5,000 to 8,000 patients while assisting the retiring physician to transition her patients to new providers, and while considering the possibility of purchasing some of the physician’s practice. 

On June 4, 2009, Parkview employees, with notice that the physician was not at home, left 71 cardboard boxes of these medical records unattended and accessible to unauthorized persons on the driveway of the physician’s home, within 20 feet of the public road and a short distance away from a heavily trafficked public shopping venue.

As a covered entity under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, Parkview must appropriately and reasonably safeguard all protected health information (PHI) in its possession, from the time it is acquired through its disposition.

“All too often we receive complaints of records being discarded or transferred in a manner that puts patient information at risk,” Christina Heide, acting deputy director of health information privacy at OCR, said in a U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) news release.  “It is imperative that HIPAA-covered entities and their business associates protect patient information during its transfer and disposal.”

Parkview cooperated with OCR throughout its investigation, according to the release. In addition to the $800,000 resolution amount, the settlement includes a corrective action plan requiring Parkview to revise their policies and procedures, train staff, and provide an implementation report to OCR.

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