Public Hospital Corrects Impermissible Disclosure of PHI in Response to a Subpoena

Covered Entity: General Hospital

Issue: Impermissible Uses and Disclosures

A public hospital, in response to a subpoena (not accompanied by a court order), impermissibly disclosed the protected health information (PHI) of one of its patients. Contrary to the Privacy Rule protections for information sought for administrative or judicial proceedings, the hospital failed to determine that reasonable efforts had been made to insure that the individual whose PHI was being sought received notice of the request and/or failed to receive satisfactory assurance that the party seeking the information made reasonable efforts to secure a qualified protective order. Among other corrective actions to remedy this situation, OCR required that the hospital revise its subpoena processing procedures. Under the revised process, if a subpoena is received that does not meet the requirements of the Privacy Rule, the information is not disclosed; instead, the hospital contacts the party seeking the subpoena and the requirements of the Privacy Rule are explained. The hospital also trained relevant staff members on the new procedures.

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