In response to a recent rash of hospital workers snooping into the medical records of celebrities such as Britney Spears and Farrah Fawcett, the California state Senate passed a bill that would provide more oversight and penalties for such privacy breaches.
The legislation would require healthcare providers, including hospitals, to implement safeguards to protect patients medical information. The measure would establish a statewide Office of Health Information Integrity within the state Health and Human Services Agency. The director of that office could assess fines of up to $250,000 against those who violate patient privacy rules and make recommendations on further investigations, discipline or licensing reviews. Lawmakers passed the bill by a vote of 29-7 and it now moves to the state Assembly. Backers of the bill include Gov. Arnold Schwarzeneggerwhose wife Maria Shriver was a target of medical files snoopingand the California Hospital Association.
UCLA Medical Center, where as many as 127 workers peeked at confidential medical records, according to the state, submitted a plan of correction to the state Department of Public Health over the issue and remains under investigation. The 595-bed hospital is retraining physicians, employees and medical students on privacy rules and has enhanced information systems, said a hospital spokeswoman. -- by Rebecca Vesely