News Feature | June 26, 2014

$800,000 HIPAA Settlement In Medical Records Dumping Case

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

Medical Records Dumping Case

Parkview Health agrees to pay $800K and institute a corrective action plan as a result of HIPAA violations.

Fort Wayne, IN-based Parkview Health System has agreed to settle potential HIPAA privacy rule 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) by paying $800,000 and adopting a corrective action plan to address deficiencies in its compliance program.

Parkview is a nonprofit health care system that provides community-based health care services to individuals in northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio. According to a resolution agreement, the corrective action plan requires Parkview to revise its policies and procedures, train staff, and provide an implementation report to OCR, which opened an investigation of Parkview after receiving a complaint from a retiring physician.

OCR opened an investigation after receiving a complaint from a retiring physician alleging that Parkview 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.

Fort Wayne Business Weekly said the doctor, Christine Hamilton, notified Parkview she was refusing delivery and would not be home on June 4, 2009 when the documents were left on the doctor’s driveway. Hamilton filed the HIPAA complaint less than a week later.

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.

“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.”

The resolution agreement emphasizes that the HIPAA settlement is not an admission of liability by Parkview. In addition, the agreement “is not a concession by HHS that Parkview is not in violation of the Privacy Rule and not liable for civil money penalties.”

Parkview cooperated with OCR throughout its investigation. 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.