Allergy practice to pay $125K settlement after patient info disclosed to reporter

Allergy Associates of Hartford (Conn.) has agreed to pay $125,000 to the HHS Office for Civil Rights and adopt a corrective action plan to settle allegations that a physician improperly disclosed patient information to a reporter in 2015.

In February 2015, the patient contacted a local television station to discuss a dispute with a physician at Allergy Associates, which comprises three physicians at four locations in Connecticut.

The reporter later contacted the physician for comment. During their conversation, the physician disclosed the patient's protected health information to the reporter, despite having been instructed by Allergy Associates' privacy officer to either ignore the media request or to respond with "no comment,"  HHS said.

In an investigation of the incident, the civil rights office determined the physician's discussion with the reporter "demonstrated a reckless disregard for the patient's privacy rights," HHS said in a Nov. 26 news release. The civil rights office also found that Allergy Associates failed to take any disciplinary action against the physician.

"When a patient complains about a medical practice, doctors cannot respond by disclosing private patient information to the media," said Roger Severino, director of the Office for Civil Rights. "Because egregious disclosures can lead to substantial penalties, covered entities need to pay close attention to HIPAA's privacy rules, especially when responding to press inquiries."

To download Allergy Associates' resolution agreement and corrective action plan, click here.

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