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A Lakeland physician group is to pay $500,000 for privacy breach

A Lakeland physicians group has been ordered to pay $500,000 after its billing company allegedly compromised patient privacy.

The physician group Advanced Care Hospitalists operated as a contracted pipeline provider of internal medicine doctors to nursing homes and hospitals across Florida.

During the time frame from November 2011 and June 2012, they hired on a representative who claimed to work with Doctor's First Choice Billings. That individual was supposed to be handling their patient accounts. They later determined that the person wasn't authorized to work on behalf of the billing company, though.

A federal investigation revealed that some time in February 2014, one of the contracted hospitals notified the physician group that patients' personal data was posted on the billing company's website. In the end, Social Security numbers, names and dates of birth initially for 400 patients were found there. A Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights report later showed that as many as 8,855 more were.

Federal officials determined that the physician group didn't sign the required business associate agreement as required under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) until April 2014. Federal law requires for all third-party vendors to sign these from the start of a relationship as a way to ensure that patients' health information is protected.

The federal investigation also revealed that the physician group failed to enact safety measures or to perform a risk analysis until 2014. This was also required from the time the relationship began.

In addition to paying the $500,000 fine, the physician group has also been ordered to comply with HIPAA standards. They're required to conduct a system-wide risk analysis assessment and to use business associate agreements with all third-party vendors.

Breaches of contracts, especially where patients' personal data and records are compromised, can be costly for hospitals, physician groups and billing companies. If you're looking to minimize the impact that the release of this information has on your company's finances and reputation, then you'll want to have a breach of contract attorney representing you that can vigorously uphold your interests in any dispute.

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