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June 24--Parkview Health System has agreed to settle potential violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy Rule with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The action comes after medical records pertaining to approximately 5,000 to 8,000 patients were left in a doctor's driveway, according to court documents.
Parkview will pay $800,000 and adopt a corrective action plan to address deficiencies in its HIPAA compliance program. Parkview is a nonprofit with hospitals proving services to individuals in northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio.
In response to the settlement Parkview released this statement Monday afternoon, "Parkview Health takes the privacy of its patients' medical information very seriously. We regret the actions taken when this incident occurred and will work to ensure it does not happen again. This was an isolated incident that happened more than five years ago involving the transition of paper records of a retiring non-Parkview physician. The government does not allege that any unauthorized parties viewed any of those records in connection with this. Parkview Health has a robust and thorough compliance program in place to prevent similar issues from arising in the future. Parkview has also implemented a comprehensive electronic health record system since this event occurred that is more secure than a paper record system. Parkview Health will immediately begin implementing a corrective action plan to strengthen our policies and procedures and to provide additional HIPAA training to co-workers."
OCR opened an investigation after receiving a complaint from a retiring physician that alleged that Parkview had violated the HIPAA Privacy Rule. In September 2008, Parkview took custody of medical records 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 in its possession, from the time it is acquired through its disposition, according to court documents.
"All too often we receive complaints of records being discarded or transferred in a manner that puts patient information at risk," said Christina Heide, acting deputy director of health information privacy at OCR. "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. In addition to the $800,000 resolution amount, the settlement includes the corrective action plan that requires Parkview to revise its policies and procedures, train staff, and provide an implementation report to OCR.
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