• Mecklenburg Co. not fined for releasing personal information of health department patients

    By: Joe Bruno

    Updated:

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The United States Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights did not fine Mecklenburg County for inadvertently providing Channel 9 with the personal medical information of thousands of health department patients in 2017.

    Records show Mecklenburg County self-reported the potential HIPAA violation on May 4, 2017.

    [Release of sensitive info raises trust concerns at Meck Co. Health Dept.]

    [Human error to blame for releasing patients' information, audit says]

    In March 2017, in response to a records request, Mecklenburg County provided Channel 9 with multiple Excel spreadsheets containing “health department patient names, information regarding the services received, lab results, medical record numbers, patients’ addresses, and dates of birth,” according to a filing with the Office of Civil Rights.

    At the time, County Manager Dena Diorio predicted this to be a category 2 HIPAA violation. A category 2 HIPAA violation carries a minimum fine of $1000 per violation up to $50,000. Commissioner Trevor Fuller estimated the county fine could be as much as $5 million.

    On Tuesday, the Office of Civil Rights confirmed to Channel 9 it closed the case was resolved with corrective action and no fine was issue.

    [Meck County: 1,200 patients impacted after info mistakenly sent to media]

    The Office of Civil Rights says Mecklenburg County “revised its HIPAA policies and procedures, revised training modules, retrained staff, and allocated funds to purchase software and hardware to improve its management of future public records requests.”

    In addition, a filing claims the Office of Civil Rights assisted Mecklenburg County with breach notification notices.

    Mecklenburg County declined to comment.

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