When Britney was hospitalized for psychiatric evaluation last January at UCLA Medical Center, it was assumed that the singer would be safe in the hands of medical professionals. But no one could have guessed that behind closed doors, trusted UCLA hospital workers were peeking at her confidential medical records.
In a new state report, The California Department of Health found that nearly twice as many medical center employees than were previously reported peeked at confidential medical records at UCLA. In other words an additional 60 employees looked through patients’ private records from 2004-2006, doubling the original reported number of accused employees. Among those affected were Farah Fawcett, and California First Lady Maria Shriver.
The report also states the privacy of a “well-known individual” was breached by two nurses and an emergency room technician who called up the patient’s computerized records as recently as mid-April.
“What we’re seeing here is a clear pattern of repeated violations of patient medical records and patient confidentiality by UCLA,” said Kim Belshe, secretary of the state’s Health and Human Services Agency. “It is absolutely unacceptable.”
The latest findings show how one employee–a former administrative specialist who now faces federal criminal charges for violating Fawcett’s privacy–looked at the records of 939 patients “without any legitimate reason” from April 2003 to May 2007. She also looked at other personal information, including Social Security numbers, according to the state report.
“What’s startling to us is, as we get to a point where we feel we’ve addressed a specific complaint and a specific issue, we identify additional issues,” Kathleen Billingsley, director of the state health department’s Center for Healthcare Quality said. “It’s very disturbing to see this.”
The hospital said it has notified all patients whose privacy was breached by the indicted woman, and has updated its systems to block complete Social Security numbers from its main clinical systems.
“All other employees who were found to have violated patient confidentiality during our review have been disciplined, including some who have been terminated,” Dr. David Feinberg, chief executive of the UCLA Health System, said. “On behalf of the entire leadership of the UCLA Health System, I am deeply sorry for this failure, and the personal distress these breaches may have caused.”