Health Law Alert: UCLA Resolves Privacy and Security Rule Violations


Curious employees are getting expensive. In a July 6, 2011 Resolution Agreement and Corrective Action Plan (CAP) [PDF], the Regents of the University of California, on behalf of the University of California at Los Angeles Health System, agreed to pay $865,500 and enter a three-year compliance monitoring and reporting program (a “corrective action plan” or CAP) for a HIPAA violation. While several violations are described in the settlement documents, the main issue will likely be familiar to many hospital and health system privacy officers: curious hospital employees regularly perused patient medical records which they had no valid reason to access.

While the settlement documents don’t specify, it is a reasonably good guess that the UCLA patients in question are (or were) celebrities. The temptation, for many employees, to get a sneak peak at some unfiltered celebrity gossip has a welldocumented negative influence on compliance. It is worth noting, however, that the settlement documents specifically do not mention why the patient records were accessed — in point of fact, it simply doesn’t matter. A facility may not be surrounded by paparazzi, but the temptation for employees to access medical records of friends, family, neighbors, and well-known local personalities can be just as high. The risk of “curious employees” then, is by no means limited to hospitals within sight of the Hollywood sign. All covered entities should take a lesson from the UCLA settlement.

Please see full alert below for more information.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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