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.
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.”
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.