Today I Learn… I make a point of learning something new everyday. This is what I learn each day

1, Aug 26, 2010

Curiosity Plus Ignorance of HIPPA Hurt Deeply

Filed under: Crime — admin @ 12:44 am

“Huping Zhou of Los Angeles is the first defendant in the nation to receive a prison sentence for a HIPPA privacy violation.” I read this news from American Health Lawyers Association on 8/19/2010.

Zhou used to be a licensed cardiothoracic surgeon in China and a former UCLA Healthcare System research assistant. He was terminated there in November 2003. However, he still had access to patient health information and continued to access and read records of both his coworkers and celebrity patient records. Zhou acknowledged in his plea agreement that he had no legitimate reason for obtaining the personal information. Though no evidence has been found by the Department of Justice to suggest that Zhou abused or attempted to share or sell the information he illegally accessed, his illegal reading of private electronic medical records of celebrities and others earned him four months in federal prison, the first of its kind in U.S. legal history. He also received a fine of $2000, in addition to his jail time.

You would think Zhou has not done any harm or damage to anybody, just trying to satisfy his morbid curiosity. Also, there are thousand of others who have done and are still doing the same thing as Zhou did. Still, a rule violation is a violation. Nothing can change the nature of his crime. Hopefully, he could use these 4 months jail time to reflect and make a new start once he is out of it.

Looking ahead, Zhou’s record of incarceration will follow him wherever he goes, almost totally ruining his career in healthcare at least in the U.S. I believe the ruling of the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Central District of California not only establishes a legal precedent but also dispatches a clear warning to all medical practice of the severe consequence of what some considers a mere misdemeanor offense. A law is a law, no matter how trivial it is.

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