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Risk

3/17/2008
03:54 PM
George V. Hulme
George V. Hulme
Commentary
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Hospital Workers Busted For Snooping On Britney Spears' Medical Records

The Los Angeles Times reported over the weekend that medical workers violated the star's privacy when she visited the UCLA Medical Center in late January and early February of this year. They're all getting fired.

The Los Angeles Times reported over the weekend that medical workers violated the star's privacy when she visited the UCLA Medical Center in late January and early February of this year. They're all getting fired.And I hope, if the allegations are true, that criminal charges, or at the very least, hefty fines targeting the individuals soon follow the firings.

According to the LA Times' story, 13 employees have been fired, with six others having been suspended for looking at Spears' private medical records.

The UCLA Medical Center, hoping to avoid this very incident, issued a memo to hospital workers warning them not to access Spears' information if they're not authorized. From the story:

UCLA officials sent a memo the morning Spears was hospitalized Jan. 31, reminding employees that they were not allowed to peruse records unless directly caring for a patient. Spears, 26, was not specifically mentioned.

"Each member of our workforce, which includes our physicians, faculty, employees, volunteers, and students, is responsible to ensure that medical information is only accessed as required for treatment, for facilitating payment of a claim, or for supporting our health care operations," chief compliance and privacy officer Carole A. Klove wrote in an e-mail to all employees.

"Please remember that any unauthorized access by a workforce member will be subject to disciplinary action, which could include termination."

And the disciplinary actions, unfortunately, are what the situation came to.

Fortunately, the UCLA Medical Center started audited access to Spears' records.

It seems the medical center took many of the right precautions. They warned employees not to access private patient information. They then followed that up with proper monitoring and auditing -- as well as following through on the disciplinary actions.

Why is this incident important to IT security? It shows just how difficult it is to control access to people who have a right to be using systems in the first place.

The story says that the state Department of Public Health is investigating the situation.

Let's hope the system comes down hard on those that broke the law.

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