UCLA, medical records, medical privacy
Dan Steinberg/AP
UCLA Medical Center

List of Snoops Grows at UCLA Medical Center

August 07, 2008 09:49 AM
by Lindsey Chapman
A new report says even more UCLA Medical Center employees than previously reported gained unauthorized access to celebrities’ confidential medical records.

30-Second Summary

According to California’s Department of Public Health, more than 120 workers at the UCLA Medical Center have gained unauthorized access to celebrity and other high-profile medical records in recent years. That number is nearly double what was originally reported.

Celebrities began complaining as early as 2004 that their private information at UCLA Medical Center was reaching the media. Victims of privacy violations include Britney Spears, actress Farrah Fawcett and California First Lady Maria Shriver.

UCLA had been attempting to address past problems when a new report by the California Department of Public Health indicated that even more workers had been involved in the confidentiality breach.

“What’s startling to us is, as we get to a point where we feel we’ve addressed a specific complaint and a specific issue, we identify additional issues,” said Kathleen Billingsley, director of California’s Center for Healthcare Quality. “It’s very disturbing to see this.”

UCLA has dismissed or otherwise punished the workers who peeked at medical records.

These privacy violations come at a time when officials are becoming increasingly aware of the problem of medical identity theft in the United States. “Identity theft in the health-care arena adds a layer of complexity” to a person’s medical care, explains Kristen Gerencher of MarketWatch, because it could affect future medical treatments if the theft isn’t detected.

A federal law called the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) helps protect a consumer’s medical privacy.

Headline Link: ‘Protecting patient privacy’

Reactions: Celebrities respond

Related Topics: Medical identity theft; hospital superbugs

Reference: HIPAA


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