The hospital that I work at recently had a breach of security, right in front of me, which I reported as required. This was a little painful as it involved people that I knew personally. Of course, there were disciplinary consequences, and hard feelings. But there are some things that people need to know and understand.
First, working at a hospital is not like working at a small private doctor's office. You can't just take a chart off the shelf, read it, and put it back without anyone knowing. Hospitals are now required to do electronic monitoring of patient files. That means that every click, for every patient, in every program, is logged. These are all processed by a security department within your facility. It could be Compliance, H.R., or I.T. Someone is looking at those records. These files are also reviewed by the Joint Commission for Hospital Accreditation when they come for their bi-annual hospital visits. If an investigation is launched, and it is found that a breach occurred, not only will the person that violated the records be disciplined and possibly terminated, so will anyone else involved. So if you see something and don't report it, you could very likely be caught up in a termination at some point down the road.
More than that, hospitals can receive a fine of $25,000 (min) to $500,000 (max) PER OCCURRENCE for security breaches. This is nothing to mess around with. Fines from the government can affect such things as grants for Clinical Trials, and other experimental services that you have. It could also mean the cancellation of major contracts such as Medicare and Medi-caid (or Medi-Cal). The cost for security breaches is extremely high, and it can affect much more than just the person who is curious about someone's records.
And what if it was your records? Remember Farrah Fawcett? She had her records spread all over the world in a humiliating way. She had no privacy, and no courtesy. Her dignity was spewed all over the front pages around the globe. Imagine if you were going through a nasty court battle; or if you contracted a debilitating disease. How would you feel? There is no excuse for this. None.
So, the next time you are tempted to look into something, just remember the cost. It is too high.
Until next time:
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Author, Medical Billing, Coding, and Reimbursement
A medical billing professional for over 30 years now, I have seen a lot of changes in this field, and there are a lot more on the horizon. Follow me as we see what they mean and for who.