Sometimes something happens and you ask yourself “What were they thinking?”
The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) recently fined a health system $800,000 because of an alleged HIPAA violation. The health system recently took custody of between 5,000 and 8,000 paper medical records of a physician who was retiring. The health system intended to transfer the records to other physicians and purchase some as well. Eventually the health system was left with 71 cardboard boxes of medical records from the retiring physician that no other physician wanted.
Instead of retaining the records or disposing of the properly and securely, employees the health system delivered the boxes of records to the physician’s home. Delivering the records in and of itself wasn’t a problem but what came next is a true head scratcher. It is reported that the health system delivered the records to the physician’s home knowing that he was not there. Instead of waiting for him to return the delivery person left the boxes in the physician’s driveway.
The HIPAA regulations require every covered entity to appropriately safeguard protected health information under their control. The health system did not meet that requirement when it returned the retiring physician’s medical records and left them in the physician’s driveway unattended. According to the OCR, the medical records were left within 20 feet of a public road and very near a public shopping area. Without question, the health system’s solution for disposing of these old medical records turned out to be more expensive than the proper disposal would have been.
What were they thinking???