Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Email from the Top.....7/16

This is the email that made it to employees. I note things that I agree with and others that I don't. Let's handle it together:
It is our duty as employees of a healthcare entity and our obligation to the community to protect our patients’ right to privacy. In addition to this moral and ethical responsibility, we have a legal obligation to safeguard our patients’ privacy under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). [frank: I agree entirely.]

You all know of the-paris-site blog. The blogger has stated he has received patient information from employees of PRMC. Some of that information has appeared on the blog, a clear breach of HIPAA. This is of extraordinary concern and something we cannot legally disregard. We are not taking this lightly. We cannot take it lightly. It is our duty to act, and I felt you should be among the first to know what those actions will be. [frank: If you note, several lawyers have commented, and others quite familiar with the HIPAA provisions have looked at the blog. No violation. But their attempt gives them a handle to base the lawsuit on.]

Today, we are filing suit against the-paris-site blogger for willful violation of federal HIPAA laws. This litigation process is the first step to resolving this issue quickly and efficiently and protecting the community we serve from having sensitive medical and personal information compromised. [frank: They are not an agency of the govenment, nor has there been compromised information in this site.]

Second, I would ask you to be fiercely vigilant in safeguarding our patients’ privacy. If you suspect a HIPAA violation, please report it immediately. You can do that by contacting our compliance officer, Ken Miller, or anyone in Administration. If you prefer to remain anonymous, call the compliance reporting hotline at 1-800-472-8868. [frank: I'll go along with that.]

Third, I want to be certain that each and every PRMC employee fully understands our legal and moral obligation to protect the privacy of our patients. Our Corporate Compliance Officer, Charles Fletcher, will be in Paris the week of June 25 to conduct refresher training on our responsibilities under HIPAA. Classes will be offered at numerous times and dates throughout the week, and all employees will be required to attend.

We understand and respect the blogger and the general public’s right to voice their opinions about PRMC, and welcome constructive criticism that may help us to better serve this community. However, the method used by the blogger is wholly unacceptable and it is an infringement on the confidentiality rights of PRMC patients and a breach of law. I hope you will join me in protecting our patients and putting a stop to the blogger’s unlawful access to information to which he has no right. [frank: If I was dealing with identifiable information, I would have been sending letters to them soliciting their help in an investigation of the hospital...if I was breaching HIPAA confidentiallity. I'm not, my sources aren't, and this is a dog that doesn't hunt.]

Stacy Eatherly
Executive Assistant
Paris Regional Medical Center
820 Clarksville Street
Phone: (903) 737-3232
Fax: (903) 737-3848


Anonymous said...

This is the most telling quote from the "scare-mail" sent to Essent Healthcare employees:

"You all know of the-paris-site blog."

Given that statement, Essent Healthcare obviously considers your blog as regular reading for ALL of its Paris employees. Of course, given the recent newspaper article (containing the web address of said blog) it’s now regular reading for most ALL OF PARIS, TEXAS, and soon far beyond. You can’t buy that level of advertising, and you received it for free. The tradeoff is that you may have to buck up for more bandwidth soon!

If it’s true that Essent Healthcare has no legal leg on which to stand regarding its claim of alleged HIPAA violations, a rational person may consider this lawsuit just an attempt by Essent Healthcare to silence its own employees. If that is indeed their planned endgame, it certainly speaks volumes about their organization and what information they feel needs varnished, or just brushed away from the public’s eyes.

In other words, if after much deliberation (re: many more costly meetings with their lawyers), all they can hang their hats on is what appears to be a trumped up HIPAA violation, a rational person might think that they are indeed nearing the end of their rope. Perhaps they’ve left just enough to hang themselves?

Time (and your blog) will most certainly tell. Free speech is indeed alive and well in Paris Texas.

Anonymous said...

A wounded animal is dangerous, and Essent is bleeding like a stuck pig right now. However, it is trying to lash out at its enemies- hence, this silly suit.

All they're tying to do is shut us all up, but you know it'll never happen unless somehow the Bill of Rights is somehow overturned by an act of Congress.

I'm gladd that PRMC is concerned with HIPAA- as a healthcare employee at a North Texas hospital, I am as well, and would have reported you to the authorities had I read anything that looked like a violation. However, since there haven't been any, we're cool on that part.

Best to stand back a ways and toss spears at the wounded beast, hoping thatone of us makes the money shot and kills it.

Anonymous said...

Again, Frank- the funny thing in all of this, is that ya can't sue for a HIPAA violation in state court. I would be getting a lawyer and filing a MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT- DISMISSAL WITH PREJUDICE- NO OPTION FOR A RE-FILE. The ONLY ones who can take action on HIPAA is US Dept of Health and Human Services and CMS (Centers for medicare and medicaid services).. Not Hud and PRMC..

Anonymous said...

You know, I am one of the 5 who came up with the name Paris Regional Medical Center (and won lots of good food from "the depot".) I am ashamed every day I see that name on that hospital, and that I had a part in naming it. I am ashamed I have had any part in this fiasco and it's dark page in Paris history.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a case of Essent's OWN "B, M and W" to me.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure this thing is really geared at shutting up employees, hence the "refresher HIPAA" Class that we all now have to go through.

I'll be darn surprised if we don't have to sign some kind of document that day...just make sure if we do- to read and REALLY understand what it obligates you to. (In fine print, NO blogging allowed for PRMC employees or some such sh*t...ha!)

Anonymous said...

Well we all know that the First Ammendment means zilch to Essent. They love trampling the rights of all people: Employees, patients and their families.

Anonymous said...

Having read some of these threads topics, I know there are attorneys who read and occasionally post here. Here's my question: Can an employer require its employees to not comment on a particular blog? Can that be a condition of employment? If the employer does so, is that an infringement on the employee's first amendment rights of free speech/expression?

Anonymous said...


How can Hud and Duckboy get you employees to actually sign away your First Amendment rights? What is to keep you from acessing the blog at home on your computer? I'm curious if Essent is going to attempt some very shaky legal maeneuvering here.......

Anonymous said...

They are so concerned about HIPA, then why is there a unit in the hospital that still has semi private rooms? That seems to me like a major HIPA violation

Anonymous said...

Under a year ago I called the hospital trying to find out if my deceased fathers medical records could be found. I told the lady what I needed to know and she gave me information over the telephone!! Going so far as to tell me several ailments my father had that I didnt know about...she had NO idea who I was and THAT was a HIPAA violation. Pot calling the kettle here!??!!!