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UPMC worker improperly viewed private patient information

| Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013, 1:30 p.m.

UPMC is alerting about 1,300 patients that a UPMC McKeesport employee not involved in their care inappropriately viewed their medical records, officials said Wednesday.

The unidentified employee, a unit coordinator in the emergency department, was fired, said UPMC spokeswoman Wendy Zellner.

UPMC officials said they notified federal authorities of the incident, which involved records viewed during the past year at several UPMC locations. The former employee was able to access patients' names, dates of birth, contact information, treatment and diagnosis information and Social Security numbers, officials said. Accessing such records is a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, a federal privacy law.

“We apologize for any concern or inconvenience that this may cause for our patients,” John Houston, UPMC's vice president of privacy and information security, said in a prepared statement. “I want to stress that patient care was never affected.”

UPMC became aware of the problem in early November when another employee alerted management. An internal investigation revealed the employee did not have a valid reason to view the records, even though she had authority to do so. The hospital system did not say which specific hospital records the employee viewed.

“The former employee reported to UPMC that she did not store this information or use it for financial gain,” Houston said.

UPMC is providing additional training to employees to avoid future problems, he said.

UPMC is sending letters to the affected patients. Those with questions should call UPMC's Office of Patient and Consumer Privacy at 412-647-6286.

Luis Fábregas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7998 or lfabregas@tribweb.com.

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