Transcriber Threatened To Post Medical Information From University of California-San Francisco on the Internet
A woman in Pakistan doing medical transcription for the University of California-San Francisco Medical Center through a subcontractor threatened to post patients' medical records on the Internet unless she was paid more money, David Lazarus reports in his San Francisco Chronicle column. UCSF originally contracted the work to Transcription Stat in Sausalito, with which it has worked for 20 years. Transcription Stat then subcontracted the work to Sonya Newburn, a Florida transcriber with whom the company had been working for about 18 months. Newburn sent the work to Tom Spires, a transcriber in Texas and owner of Tutranscibe, who then subcontracted the work to Lubna Baloch in Pakistan. UCSF and Transcription Stat say they did not know that the transcription would ever be done abroad, the Chronicle reports. The incident "highlights the danger" of subcontracting medical transcription services overseas, where U.S. privacy laws are "virtually unenforceable," according to the Chronicle.
Baloch on Oct. 7 sent an e-mail to UCSF threatening to post voice files and patient records from UCSF's Parnassus and Mt. Zion campuses on the Internet unless she received money that Spires allegedly owed her. Baloch attached to the e-mail actual files with dictation from UCSF physicians. Newburn contacted Baloch and agreed to pay her a portion of the $500 Baloch said she was owed if Baloch agreed to assure UCSF that its files were safe. "I verify that I do not have any intent to distribute/release any patient health information and I have destroyed the said information," Baloch wrote in an e-mail sent Oct. 8 to UCSF. The incident was an "egregious breach" that UCSF took "very seriously," Tomi Ryba, the medical center's chief operating officer, said, adding that UCSF has not received any evidence that Baloch destroyed the files. The medical center is revising its contracts with transcription firms to require prior notice of all subcontracting arrangements, according to Ryba. The American Association for Medical Transcription estimates that 10% of U.S. medical transcription is done in other countries (Lazarus, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/22).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.