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New York City hospital center settles $387,200 HIPAA breach

May 30, 2017

Washington — The federal government in May settled a potential violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act with a New York City hospital that reportedly disclosed sensitive health information to a patient’s employer.

St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center paid $387,200 to settle the potential violations of the HIPAA Privacy Rule and agreed to implement a comprehensive corrective action plan, according to a news release from the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

The hospital center operates the Institute for Advanced Medicine, formerly the Spencer Cox Center for Health, which provides health services to persons living with HIV or AIDS and other chronic diseases.

In September 2014, the Office for Civil Rights received a complaint alleging that a staff member of the Spencer Cox Center impermissibly disclosed a patient’s protected health information to the patient’s employer.

This disclosure included sensitive information concerning HIV status, medical care, sexually transmitted diseases, medications, sexual orientation, mental health diagnosis and physical abuse.

The subsequent investigation revealed that staff at the Spencer Cox Center impermissibly faxed the patient’s health information to his employer rather than sending it to the requested personal post office box.

In addition, the Office for Civil Rights discovered that the Spencer Cox Center was responsible for a related breach that happened nine months prior to the aforementioned incident but had not addressed the vulnerabilities in its compliance program to prevent impermissible disclosures. 

To learn more about health information privacy laws, including privacy rights in health care settings, visit hhs.gov/hipaa/index.html.

To help dentists implement a step-by-step HIPAA compliance program, the ADA offers the ADA Complete HIPAA Compliance Kit (J598). Readers can save 15 percent on all ADA Catalog products with the promo code 17125 until June 30. To order, visit ADAcatalog.org or call 1-800-947-4746.