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Physician Operates On Server, Costs His Hospital $4.8 Million 143

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Jaikumar Vijayan reports at Computerworld that a physician at Columbia University Medical Center (CU) attempted to "deactivate" a personally owned computer from a hospital network segment that contained sensitive patient health information, creating an inadvertent data leak that is going to cost the hospital $4.8 million to settle with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The error left patient status, vital signs, laboratory results, medication information, and other sensitive data on about 6,800 individuals accessible to all via the Web. The breach was discovered after the hospital received a complaint from an individual who discovered personal health information about his deceased partner on the Web. An investigation by the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) found that neither Columbia University nor New York Presbyterian Hospital, who operated the network jointly, had implemented adequate security protections, or undertook a risk analysis or audit to identify the location of sensitive patient health information on the joint network. "For more than three years, we have been cooperating with HHS by voluntarily providing information about the incident in question," say the hospitals. "We also have continually strengthened our safeguards to enhance our information systems and processes, and will continue to do so under the terms of the agreement with HHS." HHS has also extracted settlements from several other healthcare entities over the past two years as it beefs up the effort to crack down on HIPAA violations. In April, it reached a $2 million settlement with with Concentra Health Services and QCA Health Plan. Both organizations reported losing laptops containing unencrypted patient data."
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Physician Operates On Server, Costs His Hospital $4.8 Million

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  • Typcial (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Saturday May 10, 2014 @08:34AM (#46965907) Homepage Journal

    This is why you have IT staff, and you let them do their jobs. Typical "i'm a doctor, i went to school and know everything" mentality.

    Too bad they didn't fine the actual doctor instead of the hospital as it was his personally irresponsible actions that caused the breech, not hospital policy.

  • wait a minute (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 10, 2014 @08:38AM (#46965919)

    If they're gonna blame the doctor for "attempting to deactivate" something, they have to explain wth that means...otherwise it's just a scapegoat

  • by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Saturday May 10, 2014 @09:02AM (#46966005) Journal

    It's not clear why a physician had a personally owned system connected to the network, or why he was attempting to deactivate it.

    Of course it is. It was more convenient for him/her personally, despite putting sensitive patient data at risk in a venue beyond the doctor's ken.

    It's a commons tragedy (the Bizzaro-World Spock-doctrine): better for one at the expense of the many.

  • by wiredlogic ( 135348 ) on Saturday May 10, 2014 @09:20AM (#46966061)

    What's the point in having a "secure" HIPAA compliant network that anyone can connect any old computer to? If the admins had just locked out unauthorized MAC addresses this wouldn't have happened. It would have cost them less than 4.8 million to implement even at healthcare contractor rates.

  • Re:Typcial (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Saturday May 10, 2014 @09:41AM (#46966147) Homepage

    Except for IT of course. If you can master a computer then your impeccable logic and reasoning skills will make any other subject a piece of cake.

  • by Bill_the_Engineer ( 772575 ) on Saturday May 10, 2014 @09:55AM (#46966219)

    Hospitals are slow about refreshing their IT hardware and the hospital in TFA involves physicians working for both New York Presbyterian and Columbia University Medical Center. I wouldn't be surprised that the only way the physician could get a newer laptop capable of running his software in a reasonable amount of time was to order one with his own money and have the IT staff configure it for him.

    The article has the smell of bullshit coming from the IT department that was ultimately responsible. Instead of saying they mishandled off boarding the physicians computer, they gave the impression that the physician was directly responsible for the breach. If a medical physician can cause a website to appear on the hospital network and have that page accessible to the internet then I think its about time to clean house and the hospital seriously needs to find new IT staff.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 10, 2014 @10:11AM (#46966323)

    If, in a democracy, the government money isn't being spent as if it is the people's money, the people are doing something wrong. And the whole point of public law is that it imposes sanctions "in the public interest", not for the sake of the specific victim. (Sometimes this justifies stupidity, e.g. anti-marijuana law, but mostly it's why we have a civilisation and not a libertarian dystopia.)

    Any personal damages can still be claimed in civil court.

  • Re:No. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lagomorpha2 ( 1376475 ) on Saturday May 10, 2014 @10:25AM (#46966383)

    I won hands down - technology people are the arrogant asses.

    Though you would never guess that by reading slashdot comments.

  • Re:No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by greenbird ( 859670 ) on Saturday May 10, 2014 @11:22AM (#46966725)

    I won hands down - technology people are the arrogant asses.

    The difference is technology people are typically arrogant about technology, what should be their area of expertise, whereas most of the arrogant ass doctors I've encountered are arrogant about everything. The technology guy isn't going to walk into the doctor's office and start telling him about how to do doctoring stuff. A great many people will tell tell technology people all about how to do their job.

    In any field I usually take arrogance as a sign of incompetence. Typically smart people think they know less then they really do and stupid people usually think they know more. The caveat being perception of arrogance is somewhat relative also. Arrogant people usually perceive anyone who knows more about something then they do as arrogant. That being said though, there are definitely a lot of incompetent technology people, almost certainly a lot more then there are incompetent doctors.

Truth is free, but information costs.