Risk
7/8/2011
12:59 PM
50%
50%

UCLA Health System Pays $865,000 Over Privacy Charges

Employees allegedly looked at personal health records of celebrities such as Tom Cruise and Farrah Fawcett.

17 Leading EHR Vendors
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: 17 Leading EHR Vendors
UCLA Health System has agreed to pay $865,500 to settle potential federal violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). Announced Thursday, the settlement follows an investigation that alleged UCLA Health System employees violated privacy rules when they examined the electronic protected health information of celebrity patients.

The investigation by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS') Office for Civil Rights (OCR) was sparked by two separate complaints filed with OCR on behalf of two celebrity patients who received care at UCLA Health System.

The complaints alleged that hospital employees repeatedly and without permission examined the electronic protected health information of these patients. OCR's investigation into the complaints revealed that from 2005-2008, unauthorized employees repeatedly looked at the electronic protected health information of numerous other UCLA Health System patients.

"Covered entities are responsible for the actions of their employees. This is why it is vital that trainings and meaningful policies and procedures, including audit trails, become part of the everyday operations of any health care provider," OCR director, Georgina Verdugo, said in a statement. "Employees must clearly understand that casual review for personal interest of patients' protected health information is unacceptable and against the law."

Through policies and procedures, entities covered under HIPAA must reasonably restrict access to patient information to only those employees with a valid reason to view the information and must sanction any employee who is found to have violated these policies.

While HHS did not disclose the names of the celebrity patients who filed the complaints, the hospital disclosed in 2008 that employees were snooping on the personal health records of celebrities such as Tom Cruise and Farrah Fawcett.

In 2008, former hospital administrative specialist, Lawanda Jackson, pleaded guilty to selling information to the National Enquirer from the files of Britney Spears, Farrah Fawcett, and other high-profile celebrities. She died from complications of breast cancer before she could be sentenced.

In 2010, Huping Zhou, a former medical school researcher at the hospital, was sentenced to four months in federal prison and fined $2,000 for reading the confidential medical files of co-workers and celebrities such as Drew Barrymore, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Tom Hanks.

In the meantime, the hospital said it will commit to a corrective action plan and implement measures that will bring its systems into greater compliance with patient privacy rules.

The plan requires the hospital to implement privacy and security policies and procedures approved by OCR, to conduct regular and robust trainings for all UCLA Health System employees who use protected health information, to sanction offending employees, and to designate an independent monitor who will assess UCLA Health System compliance with the plan over three years.

In a statement issued by the hospital, Dr. David Feinberg, CEO of the UCLA Hospital System and associate vice chancellor for health sciences, said patients' privacy is of paramount importance.

"We appreciate the involvement and recommendations made by OCR in this matter and will fully comply with the plan of correction it has formulated. We remain vigilant and proactive to ensure that our patients' rights continue to be protected at all times," Feinberg said.

The Healthcare IT Leadership Forum is a day-long venue where senior IT leaders in healthcare come together to discuss how they're using technology to improve clinical care. It happens in New York City on July 12. Find out more.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading December Tech Digest
Experts weigh in on the pros and cons of end-user security training.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-5395
Published: 2014-11-21
Multiple cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerabilities in Huawei HiLink E3276 and E3236 TCPU before V200R002B470D13SP00C00 and WebUI before V100R007B100D03SP01C03, E5180s-22 before 21.270.21.00.00, and E586Bs-2 before 21.322.10.00.889 allow remote attackers to hijack the authentication of users ...

CVE-2014-7137
Published: 2014-11-21
Multiple SQL injection vulnerabilities in Dolibarr ERP/CRM before 3.6.1 allow remote authenticated users to execute arbitrary SQL commands via the (1) contactid parameter in an addcontact action, (2) ligne parameter in a swapstatut action, or (3) project_ref parameter to projet/tasks/contact.php; (4...

CVE-2014-7871
Published: 2014-11-21
SQL injection vulnerability in Open-Xchange (OX) AppSuite before 7.4.2-rev36 and 7.6.x before 7.6.0-rev23 allows remote authenticated users to execute arbitrary SQL commands via a crafted jslob API call.

CVE-2014-8090
Published: 2014-11-21
The REXML parser in Ruby 1.9.x before 1.9.3 patchlevel 551, 2.0.x before 2.0.0 patchlevel 598, and 2.1.x before 2.1.5 allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (CPU and memory consumption) a crafted XML document containing an empty string in an entity that is used in a large number of nes...

CVE-2014-8469
Published: 2014-11-21
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in Guests/Boots in AdminCP in Moxi9 PHPFox before 4 Beta allows remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via the User-Agent header.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Now that the holiday season is about to begin both online and in stores, will this be yet another season of nonstop gifting to cybercriminals?