3 physicians face charges, HIPAA violation for using EHR to 'steal patients'

Three California physicians are facing charges for a lesser-known EHR misuse, resulting in a creative HIPAA violation: Patient poaching.

Valley Children's Hospital in Madera, Calif., alleges the three physicians inappropriately accessed more than 160 patient records while working at the hospital "for personal gain and commercial advantage," according to HIPAA Journal.

The physicians are being accused of using Spanish-speaking interpreters to contact cystic fibrosis patients, giving them false information about their current provider in an attempt to misappropriate patients from Valley Children's Hospital and move them to a facility run by the Central California Faculty Medical Group.

In addition, the hospital is claiming unfair competition on the part of the physicians and is calling the incident a "significant data breach." Although the HHS' Office of Civil Rights considers accessing patient data for this type of use is a serious violation of HIPAA rules, the medical group has issued a statement defending the actions of the physicians.

"...Our pediatric physicians are dedicated to treating their patients and any pediatric patients that need care," representatives of University Pediatric Specialists wrote in a statement. "For this, the physicians deserve respect. They don't deserve the Children's Hospital lawsuit with its general, meritless accusations."

More articles on EHRs:

15 criticisms on the lack of EHR interoperability from an AHA report
How to eliminate 'never events': 5 takeaways about EHR design, use error and patient harm
A 5-day EHR implementation? Jonathan Bush says athenahealth is doing it

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