When thinking of HIPAA data breaches, most of us tend to think of situations where the hackers engage in malicious activities against hospitals and steal troves of patients’ protected health information (PHI). There are, however, other much simpler kinds of HIPAA privacy breaches that are easily avoidable and can be quite costly to the healthcare provider. Here’s a recent example:
The OCR imposed a $50,000 civil money penalty on Dr. U. Phillip Igbinadolor, D.M.D. & Associates, P.A. (UPI), a dental practice with offices in Charlotte and Monroe, North Carolina, for impermissibly disclosing a patient’s PHI on a webpage in response to a negative online review. Here is what UPI posted that got them in trouble:
It’s so fascinating to see [Complainant’s full name] make unsubstantiated accusations when he only came to my practice on two occasions since October 2013. He never came for his scheduled appointments as his treatment plans submitted to his insurance company were approved. He last came to my office on March 2014 as an emergency patient due to excruciating pain he was experiencing from the lower left quadrant. He was given a second referral for a root canal treatment to be performed by my endodontist colleague. Is that a bad experience? Only from someone hallucinating. When people want to express their ignorance, you don’t have to do anything, just let them talk. He never came back for his scheduled appointment Does he deserve any rating as a patient? Not even one star. I never performed any procedure on this disgruntled patient other than oral examinations. From the foregoing, it’s obvious that [Complainant’s full name] level of intelligence is in question and he should continue with his manual work and not expose himself to ridicule. Making derogatory statements will not enhance your reputation in this era [Complainant’s full name]. Get a life.
What’s the lesson to healthcare professionals? Do not publicly respond to online reviews. Nothing good can come from it for you or your practice. You can read more in the press release of this case on the HHS website.