September 20th, 2018, three Boston hospitals were fined by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR). All three of the hospital authorities are facing charges for violating HIPAA policy by allowing film crew on the premises with strict patient privacy, without their authorization. Namely, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), Boston Medical Center (BMC), and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have gone under strong opposition by the HIPAA authority for letting ‘Boston Med’ to shoot inside their facilities and were fined up to $999,000.
The Charged Bills and Payment Agreements
Boston Medical Center (BMC) accepted their failure to observe HIPAA law and in complete agreement to pay off the nearly $100,000 fine for revealing the impermissible PHI (Protected Health Information) to ABC’s crew. Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) had a satisfactory approach of approval for patient’s privacy issues, even made sure to lead ABC’s employees through the required training program. But due to late arrival of some of the signed authorization forms by the patients, the charge was for allowing the ABC crew into restricted premises before waiting on the security procedure to be completed properly. BWH has agreed to pay the fine of $384,000. Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) was charged with same allegations as that of BWH: for putting the privacy of patients at stake by not waiting for the procedures to be handled and completed properly. Like BWH, MGH also had a complete training program with ABC’s employees according to the HIPAA policy but the violation occurred due to the absence of a few signed acknowledgments by the patients. The violation happened between the same time period of October 2014 – January 2015 from both of the hospitals, MGH and BWH. MGH has agreed to settle the matter by paying $515,000 as fine.
Is it the First Time?
Previously, in the history of American hospitals and personal privacy safeguard, this is not the first time that OCR is fining an authority for the violation of HIPAA policies. Back in 2016, “NYC Med” was filmed inside the premises of New York Presbyterian Hospital (NYP) without the completion of all the necessary validations and authorizations. They even allowed the crew to film two patients on air and also failed to secure the privacy of their identity, which resulted in them paying a fine of $2.2 million to OCR.
NYP is reported to make a revision for the application of “corrective action plan”. The three hospitals BMC, MGH, and BWH will be asked to modify and adopt the correction in order to fix the misconduct. The action plan will demand to provide a certain training program for all three of the Boston medical centers. Putting these fines and ensuring a strict check and balance indicates that OCR takes the violation and privacy security issues as its priority and no HIPAA violation will be tolerated at any cost.