Feds sanction provider who shared patient information with reporter

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A three-doctor medical practice in Connecticut will pay a $125,000 fine to the HHS Office for Civil Rights after a patient had a dispute with one of the physicians who spoke to a local TV reporter.

Although the exact nature of the dispute between the patient and the doctor at Allergy Associates of Hartford was not made public, OCR investigated the incident and determined that the doctor’s conduct demonstrated a reckless disregard for the patient’s privacy.

The disclosure occurred after the physician was told by the privacy officer at Allergy Associates to not either respond to the media or respond only with “no comment.”

This kind of dispute normally would not compel federal regulators to take action, but in this case the reporter contacted the physician for comment and the doctor—without patient consent—disclosed the patient’s protected health information to the reporter.

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Despite the doctor’s conduct, OCR found that the organization took no disciplinary action against the physician and further took no corrective actions following the disclosure.

As a result, in addition to the fine, Allergy Associates will enter in to a two-year corrective action plan during which OCR will monitor the organization’s compliance with HIPAA rules.

Allergy Associates did not respond to a request from Health Data Management for further information and comment.

The resolution agreement between Allergy Associates and OCR is available here.

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