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Former UPMC Worker Indicted for HIPAA Violations

Linda Sue Kalina, a former patient information coordinator at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, was indicted by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh for HIPAA violations.

HIPAA Violation

Source: Thinkstock

By Fred Donovan

- Linda Sue Kalina, a former patient information coordinator at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), was indicted by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh for HIPAA violations.

The Butler County resident was charged on six counts of wrongfully obtaining and disclosing PHI of another person, the Department of Justice (DoJ) announced June 29.

Kalina was employed as a patient information coordinator at UPMC and later at the Allegheny Health Network (AHN). She used her position to obtain PHI on 111 individual patients between March 30, 2016, and August 14, 2017, the indictment alleged.

On four occasions between December 30, 2016, and August 11, 2017, Kalina disclosed PHI on three individuals with the intent to cause harm, according to the indictment.

“At AHN we place the highest priority on safeguarding the privacy of our patients. We have cooperated fully with authorities investigating this matter and will continue to do so,” AHN spokesman Dan Laurent told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Kalina could face up to 11 years in prison, a fine of $350,000, or both.

Assistant US Attorney Carolyn Bloch is prosecuting the case. The FBI conducted the investigation leading to the indictment.

Last month, a dozen employees at the Pennsylvania-based Washington Health System were suspended for alleged HIPAA violations involving inappropriately accessing patient records in a high-profile case.

After an internal investigation, WHS found evidence that the employees had acted inappropriately in accessing the records.

The high-profile case reportedly involved Kimberly Dollard, an employee at the WHS Neighbor Health Center, who was killed when a car careened out of control and rammed into the building where she worked.

A WHS spokesman would not confirm whether this was the incident involved in the suspensions, only that they were related to a “high-profile case.”

Also in June, New York suspended Martha Smith-Lightfoot for a HIPAA violation when she took a list of more than 3,000 patients from her former employer University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) to her new employer Greater Rochester Neurology in 2015.

The list included the patients’ names, addresses, dates of birth, and diagnoses. Smith-Lightfoot said she asked for the list to ensure continuity of care for the patients. However, she did not receive the permission of URMC or the patients to give the information to her new employer.

She admitted to a HIPAA violation in a consent order she signed with the state nursing board’s Office for Professional Discipline. In addition to a one-year suspension, she received a one-year stayed suspension and three years’ probation.

In May, an emergency medical services worker in Roane County, Tennessee, posted a comment on Facebook about an emergency response in a chicken coop that the wife of the patient said was a HIPAA violation.

The county attorney “indicated that it was probably not (a violation) of HIPAA,” but acknowledged the post “should not have been done,” Roane County Executive Ron Woody said at the time.

Also in May, a federal judge upheld a jury’s conviction of a Springfield, Massachusetts-based gynecologist for a criminal HIPAA violation and obstructing a criminal healthcare investigation.

US District Judge Mark G. Mastroianni upheld a federal jury’s conviction of Rita Luthra for a criminal HIPAA violation and obstructing a criminal healthcare investigation. Judge Mastroianni denied motions by Luthra’s attorneys to reverse her conviction.

In the original compliant, DoJ alleged that Luthra allowed a Warner Chilcott sales representative to access her patients’ PHI and then provided false information to HHS agents about her dealings with the drug company. A federal jury found her guilty on April 30.

The prosecution of Luthra stems from a DoJ probe into Warner Chilcott. DoJ alleged that the company paid kickbacks to physicians in the form of bogus speaking fees to get them to prescribe its drugs and manipulated prior authorizations to induce insurance companies to pay for prescriptions of its osteoporosis drugs.

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