The Law Offices of Brian E. Quinn

Can I lose my license by accessing a patient's medical records?

If you are a doctor authorized to practice at a Pennsylvania hospital, and you access a patient's electronic medical records without consent, you may face disciplinary action. This might include license suspension, fines and possible jail time in situations that are in direct violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

In one such case, a former patient filed a lawsuit against Lehigh Valley Health Network accusing the hospital of not protecting his private confidential information during his admission for medical care. According to The Morning Call, the patient, who also had a separate business relationship with the facility, alleged that a doctor practicing at the hospital illegally accessed his medical records. The lawsuit prompted the state Health Department to investigate for any possible violation of patient data-sharing laws.

The investigation determined that LVHN was in violation of federal and state regulations. After the patient complained to the hospital about his concerns regarding the doctor illegally accessing his records, LVHN did not make any alterations to its system to further safeguard its patients' electronic medical files. Evidence uncovered that while the patient was admitted to the hospital, but also not being treated by the physician alleged of wrongdoing, the doctor inappropriately accessed the patient's electronic records about a dozen times. The physician denied any wrongdoing and insisted that they had a doctor-patient relationship.

If a patient is under the care of another physician while admitted to a hospital, medical records may not be shared between physicians without that patient's permission. Certain exemptions, however, may permit you to discuss a patient's treatment with another professional, such as when conferring about prescription medication is necessary.

This information is provided for educational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as legal advice.

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