Medical Privacy Lapses at UCLA Facilities Spark Investigations
On Sunday, UCLA Medical Center officials said an employee improperly viewed the health records of 61 patients, including the electronic health records of 33 celebrities, politicians and other high-profile patients, such as California first lady Maria Shriver, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Kim Belshé, secretary of the state's Health and Human Services Agency, said, "It's not a question of will we take action ... It's determining what level of action to take."
UCLA said it found out about the breaches in May and fired the employee in the same month. Officials said that the employee did not work in direct patient care and that a review of her e-mails and phone calls revealed no evidence that patient information had been provided to an outside source.
David Feinberg, CEO of the UCLA Hospital System, said that the hospital had not informed affected patients, state health officials or criminal authorities of the violations.
State regulators in March began investigating after the Times reported that the medical center had fired 13 employees and was disciplining 12 others for improperly accessing pop star Britney Spears' records while she stayed in UCLA's neuropsychiatric unit in early 2008.
Last week, another UCLA employee was revealed to have breached the records of actress Farrah Fawcett, and a state inspector discovered other privacy violations on Friday.
The Department of Public Health said it has several investigations under way and is collaborating with the federal government.
Computers containing the patients' EHRs at UCLA Medical Center allow officials to track which employees accessed which individuals' files, the Times reports.
Belshé added that her agency was reviewing whether the state needed more stringent sanctions for violations of patient privacy or other tools to ensure hospitals remain accountable (Ornstein/Morain, Los Angeles Times, 4/7).