2013 IHIMA: Lawsuits by Patients for Unauthorized Disclosure of Protected Health Information (PHI)

Posted 4.19.13 by

Online Tech is exhibiting HIPAA hosting solutions at booth #9 at the Indiana Health Information Management Association (IHIMA) 2013 Annual Meeting, Changing Times with IHIMA, held at the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown, in Indianapolis, IN on April 17-19.

This session is about a lawsuit involving the breach of protected health information (PHI):

The Future is Here: Lawsuits by Patients for Unauthorized Disclosure of Protected Health Information
Speaker: Neal Eggeson, JD

Neal gave his opening statement for a lawsuit in which he represented a young man a few years back in Bloomington, IN. His client had been diagnosed with HIV several years before and throughout his entire treatment process had only told 5 people about his status; His mom, doctor, counselor and two partners.

A few years down the road, the young man received a notice from IMA that he was being sued for an unpaid medical bill of roughly $330. His doctor and insurance had never made any mention of the unpaid billed. After looking at the lawsuit document, he noticed that his diagnosis was right there on the page for IMA’s attorney, administrative assistants, courthouse clerical staff and anyone else to see since lawsuits are open public record.

The jury in the case ruled that IMA dropped the ball on protecting private patient information and was charged for a settlement of $1.25 million over a $330 unpaid medical bill simply because it listed the patient’s diagnosis on the claims page.

Neal made it clear that he was not suing IMA for a violation of HIPAA, he was suing because IMA dropped the ball on their duty to protect private patient information.

It was the first lawsuit in the country after implementation of the privacy rule and the first lawsuit in the country to return a seven-figure verdict against the provider for that particular privacy breach.

Always remember, do not assume that:

  • HIPAA’s bar against private causes of action will protect you
  • The medical community will protect you
  • That disclosures to your attorneys are protected

Read the court case here (PDF).

Related Articles:
2013 IHIMA: Meaningful Use
2013 IHIMA: Corporate Compliance for Healthcare
Liveblogging: HIPAA Hosting at the Indiana Health Information Management Association Meeting

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