Report: UCLA staff peek at celebs' health records

LOS ANGELES --

More than 120 workers at a Los Angeles hospital looked at celebrities' medical records and other personal information without permission between January 2004 and June 2006 - nearly double the number initially reported, according to a state report.

The report released Monday by the California Department of Public Health also showed that three UCLA Medical Center staffers continued to peek at the confidential records of a "well-known individual" after an April crackdown on record-peeking. The report did not identify the celebrity.

State regulators blame the hospital for not taking adequate steps to maintain patient confidentiality.

"What's startling to us is, as we get to a point where we feel we've addressed a specific complaint and a specific issue, we identify additional issues," said Kathleen Billingsley, director of the health department's Center for Healthcare Quality. "It's very disturbing to see this."

State health officials have released five reports since the Los Angeles Times first reported that UCLA employees pried into the medical records of prominent patients, including singer Britney Spears, actress Farrah Fawcett and California first lady Maria Shriver.

The latest report said 127 workers peeked into celebrities' medical records without permission, leading to several firings, suspensions and warnings. The report also detailed the case of one employee who looked at the records of about 900 patients "without any legitimate reason" and viewed Social Security numbers, health insurance information and addresses, from April 2003 to May 2007.

Previous reports said the woman, Lawanda Jackson, viewed about 60 patient records. The former administrative specialist faces federal criminal charges.

The report said Jackson used her supervisor's password to view the records, which officials determined by examining her workstation.

Hospital officials said computer systems have been updated to block complete Social Security numbers and staff is being trained on privacy and security. The hospital said it has notified all patients whose privacy was breached by Jackson.

"We have no excuses," Dr. David Feinberg, chief executive of the UCLA Health System, said in a statement. "UCLA should have detected the violations by Ms. Jackson years ago and should have immediately initiated the process to dismiss her."

Feinberg said the hospital continues to investigate and all employees found to have breached patient confidentiality were disciplined or fired.

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Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com


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