Unique case where concerned entity didn’t violate HIPAA regulations

March 30th, 2014


Major task of HIPAA is to keep track on data breaches and government penalties for compliance failure. It covers entities that handle patient data in some form. Incident involved Monroeville, Pa. when its 911 dispatch centre from five fire stations gave easy access for patient medical records to unauthorized users. Information which was accessible included names, driver’s license numbers, birth dates and medical histories.

Monroeville is a community of about 28,000 with a vibrant business corridor, a convention center and two busy hospitals. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was covering this incident for last two years and found that Monroeville, Pa didn’t breached HIPAA regulations. Investigation was carried out by Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

HHS learned that municipality failed to maintain the database properly and soon after the discovery of the breach unauthorized access was terminated. According to Office for Civil Rights, ‘Monroeville, its dispatch center, police department or fire department are all not covered under the provisions of the privacy law, which mainly related to health care providers and insurers.’

Two Monroeville council members said they were pleased by the government’s findings. Tom Wilson said, “I was happy that they didn’t find any violations, and the folks that were falsely accused, that took the brunt of the accusations, were completely exonerated.”

Linda Gaydos said,” “I am absolutely overjoyed for the employees of our police department, our dispatch center, our EMS and our fire departments and their families, to have this put behind them,” She added, “We had a group of people in Monroeville that worked against Monroeville, and they smoke-screened and they tried to keep stirring the pot and they tried to scare people and make it worse. They’ve made it a very, very bad, uncomfortable situation for a lot of people, and I’m hoping this will put an end to it.”

Municipal Manager Timothy Little said, “I think it lifts a cloud off of Monroeville, and specifically the public safety aspect of the municipality, that there wasn’t any wrongdoing with respect to [health privacy law] violations,”

Organizations, especially corporate giants, have to have an information security policy in place that proves they have taken necessary steps and measures to safeguard the information they gathered. If these policies are not adhered to, the regulators may prosecute.

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