The more famous the patient, the greater the temptation to peek at his or her medical records. This is why California enacted health privacy legislation in 2008. Among the latest providers to be fined by the state is Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, reportedly as a result of two employees’ unauthorized access of Michael Jackson’s medical records. The LA Times indicates that the employees who accessed the records have been fired. State regulators would not confirm that the records were Jackson’s, but the Times cites sources close to Jackson’s case who said his legal team had previously been informed by UCLA officials that Jackson’s medical files had been improperly accessed shortly after his death last year.
California’s state privacy laws, SB 541 and AB 211, which parallel HIPAA in many respects, established the California Office of Health Information Integrity which is authorized to enforce health privacy rules and impose fines on violators. Fines range from $25,000 to $250,000 per violation.
Well-known persons whose records have been improperly viewed in California include Farrah Fawcett, Britney Spears, “Octomom” Nadya Suleman, and Maria Shriver, wife of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
In a related item, the Riverside, CA Press-Enterprise reports that Community Hospital of San Bernadino has been fined $325,000 as a result of unauthorized access of over 200 patient records by a radiology technologist in 2009. Other hospitals fined include Enloe Medical Center, Rideout Memorial Hospital and San Joaquin Community Hospital, according to the California Department of Public Health.
A UCLA hospital employee was sentenced to the first reported prison term for unauthorized access of medical records earlier this year.