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Thread: UCLA workers snooped in Britney Spears' medical records

  1. #1
    Elite Member Palermo's Avatar
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    Default UCLA workers snooped in Britney Spears' medical records

    The Medical Center is taking steps to fire at least 13 employees and is disciplining others, including doctors, for looking at the pop star's confidential files.
    By Charles Ornstein, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
    2:51 PM PDT, March 14, 2008

    UCLA Medical Center is taking steps to fire at least 13 employees and has suspended at least six others for snooping in the confidential medical records of pop star Britney Spears, who was recently hospitalized in its psychiatric ward, a person familiar with the matter said today.

    An additional six physicians also face discipline for peeking at her computerized records, the person said.

    Questioned about the breaches, officials acknowledged that it was not the first time UCLA had disciplined workers for looking at Spears' records. Several workers were caught snooping after Spears gave birth to her first son, Sean Preston, in September 2005 at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center and Orthopaedic Hospital, officials said. Some were fired.

    "It's not only surprising, it's very frustrating and it's very disappointing," said Jeri Simpson, the Santa Monica hospital's director of human resources, who handled the discipline in the first instance.

    "I feel like we do everything that we possibly can to ensure the privacy of our patients and I know we feel horrible that it happened again."

    Simpson said UCLA treats celebrities "all the time and you never hear about this."

    "I don't know what it is about this particular person, I don't know what it is about her," she added, referring to Spears.

    Hoping to head off such snooping, UCLA officials had sent a memo the morning Spears was hospitalized on Jan. 31, warning employees that they were not allowed to peruse records unless directly caring for a patient. Doing so is considered a violation of a federal patient privacy law called the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which went into effect in 2003.

    "Each member of our workforce, which includes our physicians, faculty, employees, volunteers and students, is responsible to ensure that medical information is only accessed as required for treatment, for facilitating payment of a claim, or for supporting our healthcare operations," chief compliance and privacy officer Carole A. Klove wrote in an e-mail to all employees.

    "Please remember that any unauthorized access by a workforce member will be subject to disciplinary action, which could include termination."

    Klove declined to discuss specifics of the most recent breaches today, saying they involved confidential patient and personnel matters. "We regularly monitor access to patient records, and in the event of an inappropriate access, we will investigate it, and if a violation if found, we will take appropriate action which can include termination."

    Klove said she regularly reminds employees of patient privacy rules and said that all workers must sign statements of confidentiality when they are hired. The hospital is also considering having them sign such statements annually.

    The records reviewed by those who are slated to be fired were not from Spears' most recent hospital stay, but rather from previous hospitalizations at UCLA, a source familiar with the matter said. Those disciplined include both medical and nonmedical employees, although no doctors were targeted for firing, the person said.

    When employees access a patient's records electronically, they leave an electronic trail, which can later be traced back. "We advise all of our workforce that their password is their pin for lack of a better analogy, and it is their signature," Klove said. When it is used, the systems track which screens they view and for how long.

    Those with access to clinical information include healthcare workers and others -- such as billing and admitting staffers -- who need to have that information to perform their jobs, she said. Housekeepers, for instance, would not have access to electronic medical records.

    Nicole Moore, lead organizer for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 at UCLA, said her union is representing three of the health workers who recently were told they would be fired. The hospital's employees are represented by several different unions.

    Moore said she is trying to determine whether disciplinary actions were administered fairly.

    "We believe that the university has a responsibility to their patients but also their employees to administer fair and consistent discipline to everybody, regardless of their position whether it's a doctor who violated it or a certified nursing assistant," Moore said.

    Klove said doctors are overseen by a separate entity, the medical staff governing board, than other employees.

    Spears was admitted to UCLA under Section 5150 of California's Welfare and Institutions Code, which allows patients to be held against their will for up to 72 hours for evaluation if they are deemed a danger to themselves or others. Her hold was extended.

    Spears was released on Feb. 6, after nearly a week of treatment.

    Other hospitals around the country have similarly disciplined employees for nosing around in patients' medical records.

    In October, Palisades Medical Center in New Jersey suspended more than two dozen employees without pay for accessing George Clooney's medical records after he was injured in a motorcycle accident. Some reports suggested that the information was sold to the media, but a hospital spokesperson told reporters at the time that an internal inquiry could not confirm that.

    Also last year, Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside fired a total of 10 nurses, secretaries and technicians for attempting to take pictures of patients and records. Another employee resigned and others "received corrective actions," the hospital said in a statement at the time.

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    Elite Member NicoleWasHere's Avatar
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    Class.

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    Elite Member Beeyotch's Avatar
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    I imagine this goes on all the time, unethical as it is. Sucks that people were fired mainly because she is so high profile. Why don't they do it for all unethical breaches of medical confidentiality, at least be consistent.

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    This is sleazy in the extreme. Even though she's a public figure, she still has the right to private medical records--especially because people stand to profit from releasing this information.

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    Elite Member msdeb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Beeyotch View Post
    I imagine this goes on all the time, unethical as it is. Sucks that people were fired mainly because she is so high profile. Why don't they do it for all unethical breaches of medical confidentiality, at least be consistent.
    my beastly sis in law is a nurse at Kaiser, and she snoops all the flippin time.
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    Elite Member Trixie's Avatar
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    Am I missing something here? It seems to me this could be easily prevented by requiring an additional security code to access certain records. There's no reason that anyone with a sign-in should see all kinds of confidential information which doesn't pertain to their job.

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    Elite Member NoNoRehab's Avatar
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    What's the big deal. They worked there, and looked at her records. As long as no one sold the info it's just a price you have to pay for having a records system.

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    Elite Member southernbelle's Avatar
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    ^^ I agree. As long as they keep it to themselves, I don't think it should be a problem. IMO, when you check into a hospital, you have no expectation of privacy. I don't care if people are looking at my records. The fact that they're making such a big deal of this honestly makes me wonder if there's some bombshell on them that they're scared will get leaked.

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    Elite Member Sleuth's Avatar
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    um because its private information that those particular people had no need or right to access... particularly where money could be made from selling the information, i think they should consider a revamp of the current system.
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    Elite Member Beeyotch's Avatar
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    Well, that's just it, the patient-health provider confidentiality is in place so any "bombshells" in your health records stay private. Which you know, they should stay private as it's really not other people's business.

    But everybody wants to know everything about this twit, so I think it's really foolish of the hospital to expect everyone to control their curiosity. I mean shit, I'd look too as long as I couldn't be traced. Although I agree the really sleazy thing is selling the info. Put extra security on it, eliminate the temptation.

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    Elite Member Trixie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by southernbelle View Post
    ^^ I agree. As long as they keep it to themselves, I don't think it should be a problem. IMO, when you check into a hospital, you have no expectation of privacy. I don't care if people are looking at my records. The fact that they're making such a big deal of this honestly makes me wonder if there's some bombshell on them that they're scared will get leaked.
    Really? You wouldn't care if you were involuntarily committed to the mental hospital on a 5150, and people who knew you, or knew of you, were reading your confidential medical records just because they were nosy?

    And what if they didn't keep it to themselves? Ok, maybe they didn't release it to your local newspaper, but just gossiped about it with your friends and neighbors? That's ok with you, because you had no expectation of privacy??

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    Elite Member Palermo's Avatar
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    Medical records need to stay private, no matter who the patient is

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    Elite Member sparkly's Avatar
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    Maybe this will be a wake up call for people who put Doctors on pedestals.

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    Elite Member MsDark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Palermo View Post
    Medical records need to stay private, no matter who the patient is
    You realize how many people have legitimate access to medical records if you're admitted to a hospital, even as a celeb and on the down low? Personally, I wouldn't risk my liscense by revealing anything. Neither would anyone else I know or work with. So I don't see what the BFD is.
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    Mistress of Dick All Elvira's Avatar
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    This is disgusting. Didn't this already happen at this hospital in the case of Dennis Quaid's children?
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