A Virginia State Senator act of unlawful sharing of patient information led to an investigation into alleged HIPAA breach. As per the reports, senator during her 2015 campaign used patient contact information to send political solicitations. It violated federal health privacy rules.
Senator Dunnavant sent emails and print letters to 1500 patients during the 2015 election campaign. She ran in a four-way Republican primary for the 12th District seat. US Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) mentioned that senator broke federal HIPAA law due to the use of patients’ information and her decision to disclose the same with her campaign manager.
Conservative blogger Tom White and an unnamed individual filed a complaint against Dunnavant after receiving the letter during her campaign. HHS investigators mentioned that the case is closed. They mentioned that senator Dunnavant will not face any penalties or fines as she took prompt actions to minimize the damage.
“For me, it’s really all about the fact that none of my patients were harmed,” Dunnavant said.
She also added that it is regrettable. The senator said that she ran the letter by her medical practice board and lawyers. They took no issue with it. She also mentioned the sharing of information with campaign manager was done under HIPAA’s Privacy and Security rule. Investigators denied the legitimacy of her claim.
“Dr. Dunnavant’s position that the disclosure and use of (protected health information) to and by the campaign committee was strictly related to treatment or health care operations is not supported by the evidence,” Barbara J. Holland, the mid-Atlantic regional manager for the HHS OCR, wrote in a letter dated Dec. 6. “The letter expressly encouraged patients to participate in campaign activities and invited patients to contact the campaign for additional information.”
HHS mentioned that they are willing to take additional steps if more complaints or evidence of misconduct comes forward in the future.
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