UCLA's medical record spying problem worse than thought

Despite vows that it was getting things in order, UCLA Medical Center still seems to have a problem with protecting the privacy of its medical records. According to a new report from the California Department of Public Health, the privacy of a high-profile patient was breached by two nurses and an emergency department tech in mid-April. What's more, the Department found that almost twice as many medical center employees as had previously been reported had improperly accessed records between January 2004 and June 2006. That brings the full total of workers implicated in records snooping to 127.

Previous investigations had found that UCLA employees had inappropriately viewed the records of several celebrities and high-profile patients, including actress Farrah Fawcett and singer Britney Spears. In one particularly egregious case, a former administrative specialist faces federal criminal charges for violating Fawcett's privacy, as well as 938 other patients, from April 2003 to May 2007.

UCLA's attempts to discipline the employees have varied. Of 59 employees newly linked to breaches by the Department of Public Health, 24 worked at UCLA when they were identified. The hospital is proposing to fire seven, suspend six for two to three weeks each and issue verbal or written warnings to eight others, with three remaining under investigation.

Spurred by incidents like these, California legislators have filed new legislation imposing fines of $1,000 to $25,000 on workers who unlawfully view patient records. Hospitals or other health facilities would face much larger fines of $25,000 to $250,000 for similar wrongdoing.

To learn more about UCLA's medical record snooping issues:
- read this piece from the Los Angeles Times

Related Articles:
More UCLA staffers cited for record snooping
UCLA staff accused of viewing Britney Spears' records
Union fights suspensions for viewing star's records
Park Nicollet suspends employees for EMR snooping

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