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Friday, April 04, 2008


First it was George Clooney’s medical records that were breached at the Palisades Medical Center in North Bergen, NJ. As a result, 27 staffers were suspended without pay for taking a sneak peak at the information. Clooney and his girlfriend had had a wreck on his motorcycle and were treated for a cracked rib and broken foot, respectively. And to add insult to injury, another 13 employees were being investigated in the incident. Perhaps it was only curiosity but the hospital is being questioned over whether or not it could have better protected Clooney’s records. Accessing this information without authorization is a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). That was in September of 2007. And then in March of 2008, Britney Spears goes to UCLA for a Section 5150 in California where the hospital has the right to hold her against her will for potential danger to herself and others. Now this is information that Spears and any person would like to keep under cover, but naturally the paparazzi was hounding her most likely right up to the emergency room door, so it was inevitable that someone inside would get curious . UCLA fired 13 employees and suspended 6 others for unauthorized access to the pop star’s medical records, according to SCMagazine. Beth Givens of Privacy Rights Clearinghouse said, "It's hard for me to comprehend -- apparently stardom is such a strong magnet that some employees will simply ignore penalties and sanctions and access medical records without authorization." Jobs were lost by 13 people who chanced a glimpse at this troubled woman after having signed a confidentiality agreement that they must have known could doom their jobs. If an employee would jeopardize their employment on a frivolous notion like the Spears’ incident, how far would they go to steal insurance ID numbers that could be sold for large sums of money? But it doesn’t stop there. Another UCLA Medical Employee was disciplined for snooping into Farrah Fawcett’s medical records, as reported on Apparently details of her cancer condition were being leaked to the National Enquirer, and the LA Tines said UCLA had even fired an employee. The rumor was Fawcett had given up and wanted to die, which was denied by Kim Schwartz, her attorney. It’s bad enough that the medical data is stolen, but when it’s embellished with innuendo, the crime is maliciously compounded. In the March 2008 AARP Bulletin, the subject of health information technology (HIT) is discussed, and how the medical data breaches have stalled Congress’ efforts in the implementation of electronic records nationwide. There is a genuine perceived need because up to 98,000 Americans die every year due to medical errors with an additional 1.5 million caused harm, based on Nat’l Academy of Science Institute figures. In other words, security first, then comes the technology. How many more people will die before the U.S. wakes up to the need to protect individual privacy?

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