Friday, June 15, 2007

Send in the Clowns

Security is a strategy, not a policy!

A box left in a trash bin could end up leaving some local doctors a little lighter in the wallet.

The Greenwich Post was given a box filled medical documents from the Dearfield Medical Building that may have been improperly disposed of. The box was discovered at 4 Dearfield Drive inside a trash bin in May and contains information about lab tests and insurance approvals as well as other medical issues. These documents are not medical charts, but do contain patient names and contact information.

According the United States Department of Health and Human Services, under the privacy regulations for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), documents such as the ones in the trash bin are supposed to be kept confidential and then shredded when disposed of, not just thrown out in a box.

While it was not confirmed from which office at the medical building all the documents originated, the names of Alfred Padilla and Judith Goldberg-Berman, who run an endocrinology practice in the building, appear frequently on the documents.
Dr. Padilla spoke to Greenwich Post on Tuesday and expressed surprise that the documents had not been shredded. He said it was the practice’s policy to make sure all medical documents were properly disposed of.

“We take HIPAA very seriously,” Dr. Padilla said. “In general we will shred everything we throw away.”

Dr. Padilla said there were some documents that were kept in a room at the practice to be shredded, but hadn’t yet been. He speculated that the cleaning crew at the building might have accidentally disposed of them.

“We have a pile of boxes to be shredded,” Dr. Padilla said. “If the cleaning people came and took the box, mistaking it for garbage, that would have been what happened... My suspicion is that one of our shredding boxes ended up in the trash bin. That’s the only theory I can come up with.”

Sheesh. Who'da ever thunk that cleaning people might mishandle patient records?

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