HIPAA Violator Sentenced to Prison

Dom Nicastro, for HealthLeaders Media , May 31, 2011

Under the terms announced Wednesday, Smith must also pay $72,746 in restitution to the federal drug plan and to forfeit the same amount to the government as proceeds of illegal activity.

This isn't the first time HIPAA violations have resulted in jail sentences.

United States Magistrate Judge Andrew J. Wistrich in April 2010 sentenced a former UCLA Healthcare System employee who admitted to snooping on patients' records to four months in prison.

Huping Zhou, 47, of Los Angeles, admitted to illegally reading private and confidential medical records, mostly from celebrities and other high-profile patients, the federal California attorney's office said in a release.

Wistrich condemned Zhou for his lack of respect for patient privacy.

Zhou was the first person in the nation to be convicted and incarcerated for misdemeanor HIPAA offenses for merely accessing confidential records without a valid reason or authorization, according to the attorney's office.

In January Zhou pleaded guilty to four misdemeanor counts of violating the HIPAA Privacy Rule. He is a licensed cardiothoracic surgeon in China who was employed in 2003 at UCLA Healthcare System as a researcher with the UCLA School of Medicine.

Dom Nicastro is a contributing writer. He edits the Medical Records Briefings newsletter and manages the HIPAA Update Blog.

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