California Fines Prime $95,000 for Violating Patient Confidentiality
The California Department of Public Health has fined Prime Healthcare Services $95,000 for violating patient confidentiality by disclosing a patient's health information to hospital employees and journalists, the Los Angeles Times reports (Terhune, Los Angeles Times, 11/29).
The agency imposed the fine on Nov. 9 for five offenses that occurred last year at Prime's Shasta Regional Medical Center.
In response to a California Watch article about aggressive Medicare billing practices, Randall Hempling -- Shasta's CEO -- sent an email to 785 workers disclosing confidential information about a 64-year-old patient with diabetes.
Earlier, Hempling disclosed the patient's medical files to the editor of the Redding Record Searchlight to dissuade the publication from reprinting the California Watch story.
State officials said that all of the disclosures were illegal because they were made without the patient's permission or knowledge (Williams, California Watch, 11/28).
DPH also issued an additional $3,100 in fines because the hospital did not report the breach to the state and the patient in a timely manner.
Response From Prime
Prime Healthcare officials said they are appealing the state's findings and penalties.
Edward Barrera -- Prime spokesperson -- said, "Shasta Regional Medical believes that disclosures, if any, were permitted under both federal and state law," adding that the facility "is committed to the privacy of its patients."
DPH Issues Separate Fine
Separately, DPH fined Prime $25,000 because a Shasta worker inappropriately accessed a co-worker's health records in January.Barrera said that the hospital fired the worker after discovering the problem. He added that Prime "believes the fine is excessive and has appealed the findings and penalties" (Los Angeles Times, 11/29). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.