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12 Apr 09 LabCorp’s HIPAA Violation

Here’s a recent story from the Winston-Salem News. LabCorp’s clear violation of the HIPAA laws is of grave concern. Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, releasing medical information to someone that has not been authorized to receive it is punishable by up to $10,000 per incident and prison time. The only problem is that out of tens of thousands of complaints filed, the government has fined just a handful. Well here’s the LabCorp HIPAA violation, which is probably happening on a daily basis.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — April 11, 2009, A Triad medical company said it mistakenly faxed almost a dozen pages of personal patient information to the wrong number.The lab test results were sent from LabCorp, and were meant to go to Winston-Salem Health Care. Instead, they went to Leigh Ambruso’s home insurance office.

“I don’t know how to read test results,” she said. “I know enough to know I wasn’t supposed to have this information.”

For six days LabCorp sent information from about 12 patients to Ambruso’s fax machine. Originally, she said, she didn’t think anything of it. “I just want people to know this is happening,” she said.

But the faxes kept coming. Ambruso said she explained the error to someone at Winston-Salem Health Care who was supposed to get the information. “She said, ‘Do me a favor and fax them to me,'” Ambruso said.

She said she finally had enough and realized the fax was violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). “I said, ‘If you send me one more fax, I’m going to call the patient and tell them I have their personal information,'” Ambruso said.

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One of the patients….William Dull said he was anxiously waiting on results to determine if his cancer remained in remission. “It’s very upsetting,” Dull said. “It’s not being handled like it should be.”

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No one at LabCorp would talk on camera. The company eventually responded.

“The fax number has been corrected in our computing systems to prevent similar incidents in the future,” the company said in a statement.

A Winston-Salem Health Care representative said that the company takes the security and confidentiality of patient information very seriously. “We appreciate the caller’s efforts to bring this situation to LabCorp’s attention so that it could be addressed,” a company representative said. Winston-Salem Health Care said it is still investigating the mix-up.

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Reader's Comments

  1. |

    There you go people! Wake up! Labcorp does not care an iota about your PHI–personal health information. If it were not for the people that actually call and let Labcorp know they are getting your results this would have continued. There is no system of checks and balances and that is scary. This isn’t what size blouse I wear or what size shoes your kid wears…but that’s how they treat it with utter nonchalence and disregard. Believe me I have seen it first hand.

  2. |

    I have been to many of the service service in the greater Phoenix, Peoria, and Glendale AZ area for blood work. I have to say a lot of the employees are very rude. Especially a couple I’ll name, by name, one of them is a lady named Cindy that works at the 27th AVE site across, from John C. Lincoln Hospital. She was screaming and yelling and had a real attitude problem. Another was an employee and from what I was told the manager of the site at a Bell location on 71st or some say 72nd ave. Her name was Elizabeth. Although she thinks she’s the best, she was rude and wouldn’t help me preferring to have me sit down while she continued watching a small television set. I waited and waited to be called to give my order to her and my insurance card. When I told her I didn’t think she should be watching television while she had a room full of people waiting for blood draws, she told me she didn’t have time for my crap. I decided to walk out. I called the main lab and reported the incident and have yet to hear anything about it. I figure that mean LabCorp is all about the almighty dollar and never mind the patients care. They as a corporation are in place to do a service and it sure as the heck isn’t watching tv, or screaming at the patients. For shame LabCorp, I plan to go elsewhere and have told everyone I know to do the same. Without the patients you wouldn’t have jobs–think about it.

  3. |

    I’m sorry to hear that you were mistreated. When the room is full the main action is to empty it so every one can relax. But I see some don’t Follow The Rules ..

  4. |

    HIPAA had brought a new revolution in the healthcare sector and had made significant improvement especially in mishandling of vital healthcare information of individual patient, but still due to lack of proper HIPAA training, there are incidences of losing or disclosing the patient information from doctor, nurse or from any concern person. The HIPAA training helps to better understand the implications of HIPAA legislation and identify critical compliance requirements. It helps to better understand HIPAA’s Administrative Simplification Act as well as how to create a framework for initiating and working towards a blueprint for HIPAA Privacy compliance and understand HIPAA Security Rules And Regulations.

  5. |

    I am currently going through this same nightmare! I am hundreds of miles from my state, came to another for training with a new company as a new employee, but because LabCorp did NOT run the test and pass the results on to the MRO, I have now lost my job. My hair samples were clean, I passed my physical, just like the ones I passed a few days before I took this test for my state. I’m not a drug user, never have been, I don’t even smoke. There’s no alcohol in my system either because I don’t drink, with the exception of 1 single glass of red wine 3 months ago.

    I tried to communicate with their people, whom then threatened me over the phone. I have since filed complaints with the regulatory agencies, including the Department of Transportation. I am currently filing a lawsuit against LabCorp for their willful and deliberate mishandling of my urine sample, which was given 9 days ago. The company and I have been told many different stories as to where the urine sample is/isn’t; lost, someone else lost it, MRO lost it, etc. I’ve asked repeatedly for new testing, but due to DOT regs, cannot since the lab is not telling them that there is an issue. So, I have already hired a lawyer and will be proceeding against them. For me to jump through so many hoops, do everything that I was asked of, only to have some lab techs drop the ball and cost me my job and future, is unacceptable. It’s time for LabCorp to be responsible for their employees actions, including abusive behavior over the phone, failure to process, etc.

    BTW: My youngest son works for one of the largest Medical Testing Laboratories in the US and he told me that this test takes minutes to run, they’ve obviously not run it, lost it or contaminated it. Instead of fessing up, and dealing with the backlash, and this would allow my previous test to then be voided so I can retest again/now, they’re not talking to me, the company, etc. No one knows what’s going on but LabCorp. With them not communicating, they’ve caused me damages, which I intend to pursue.

    As far as I’m concerned, it’s time they’re audited and the government steps in to see what non-compliance issues are going on.

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