University Hospitals to Fire Employees Over Privacy Violations - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

University Hospitals to fire employees over privacy violations


IOWA CITY (KWWL) -- With its investigation finding a clear violation of Federal and hospital policies, The University of Iowa is acting quickly to fire three University of Iowa Hospital employees and suspend two other employees. The investigation reveals that several hospital employees looked at medical records of at least some of the hospitalized University of Iowa football players last week.

"It's a clear violation. We have taken disciplinary action against five employees. And, with three others, we are in the process of terminating their employment and two others are going to be suspended without pay for five days," University of Iowa spokesman Tom Moore said.

Though it's a Federal violation, it's also a hospital personnel matter, and that means Moore cannot release the names of the five hospital employees.

Three employees will be fired for electronically and illegally accessing the medical records system at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. The two others will be suspended, while all five could face stiff fines and even jail time, if federal regulators get involved.

Tom Moore says the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics has a good medical records privacy policy in place, and doesn't anticipate making any policy changes, Employees annually sign a confidentiality agreement and know what's expected of them with regard to the privacy of patient medical records. 

Despite the strong policy, Tom Moore says there is really no way to prevent it from happening at the hospital.

"There is no guarantee against it happening again, because, obviously, it has occurred. However, we want to reassure patients that their privacy is one of our top priorities. Privacy and confidentiality is at the very core; the very cornerstone of trust between the healthcare provider and the patient," Moore said.

Like any patient, the Hawkeye football players were protected under the Federal HIPAA law of 1996. That's the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act which all hospitals must follow or face the possibilities of large fines for violations. HIPAA protects the confidentiality of a patient's medical information, and makes sure that information is not released by medical professionals.

Protected Medical information includes any information which doctors, nurses or other health care providers put into your personal medical record. In addition to hospitals and healthcare providers, government agencies like Medicare, Medicaid, HMOs, health insurance companies and company health plans must also adhere to the strict HIPAA regulations. 

Online Reporter:  Ron Steele



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