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AOL Chief's Benefits Blunder Also a HIPAA Violation

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, February 17, 2014

Prime also sent an e-mail "to its entire workforce and medical staff, approximately 785-900 individuals" describing Courtois' medical condition, diagnosis and treatment "in detail," according to the agreement. And it failed to punish its employees who violated the law. (Congressional representatives subsequently called for a federal review of Prime hospitals for Medicare fraud.)

Last June in a Resolution Agreement with Prime hospitals, the Office of Civil Rights determined that between Dec. 13 to Dec. 20, 2011, "SRMC failed to safeguard the Affected Party's PHI (protected health information) from any impermissible intentional or unintentional disclosure on multiple occasions" with three California media outlets.

There are other consequences besides a financial penalty for healthcare organizations like Prime that dismiss or overlook the seriousness of HIPAA's prohibitions. All 16 Prime hospitals are now under a Corrective Action Plan to assure an end to privacy violations within this healthcare system.

There have been some good things to come out of all this mess. Armstrong has apologized to at least one of the parents and to other AOL employees. AOL has restored its prior 401(k) match policy. And many people in healthcare have learned an important lesson.


Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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3 comments on "AOL Chief's Benefits Blunder Also a HIPAA Violation"


Dorinda Sattler (2/20/2014 at 5:39 PM)
HIPAA only applies to covered entities and their business associates. Unless Mr. Armstrong or AOL is either one of these, HIPAA doesn't apply. However, it was still morally and ethically wrong to discuss the information.

sdh (2/20/2014 at 4:00 PM)
It's not a HIPAA violation. It is health information, and I certainly agree that it was a bonehead move to make the comment. However, employee health information held by an employer is not subject to the HIPAA regulations.

Harvey (2/17/2014 at 4:42 PM)
HIPPA violations; everyone but the agencies who are suppose to watch over HIPPA knows of these constant violations.Former Mayor Giuliani violated HIPPA when he tried to come up with an excuse for police shooting an innocent young man. Major League Baseball bought stolen health records and no one says a word about it