Fax Messages with PHI Sent to the Wrong Patient

OhioHealth’s Grant Medical Center dispatched fax messages containing the protected health information (PHI) of a patient to the wrong person in the last few months. This is a violation of the HIPAA rules and privacy of the patient.

Elizabeth Spilker was the recipient of the faxes by mistake. She made several attempts to notify Grant Medical Center about the erroneous fax transmissions. She hoped to stop it but failed to do so. She sent a fax message to the number of the sender to say that the faxes were sent to her by mistake. She tried to call the medical center, but there was no reply. Grant Medical Center only knew about the matter after Spilker told ABC6 about the issue and a news report was featured on June 18.

Spilker stated that she was getting faxes from Grant Medical Center for more than one year. The faxed messages shared various PHI including names, weight, age, medical history, doctor prescribed medications, and other sensitive healthcare data. Normally, she would receive the fax message in the afternoon after several repeated calls were made in the course of the day. It will just stop after the fax machine is connected to receive the fax message.

ABC6 reporters informed Grant Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio regarding the problem. The employees were also informed regarding the error. Soon after, the medical center made an announcement that they had steps to resolve the matter. OhioHealth additionally responded to what Elizabeth Spilker told ABC6 that she received fax messages for approximately one year. Investigation showed that the faxes sent were only over a period of 6 months. In the review of the fax system logs, it was discovered that the error was because of the wrong transposed fax number of the patient.

Grant Medical Center already corrected what needs to be fixed. Breach notification letters had been sent to the patients who had their PHI disclosed. OhioHealth apologized for making mistakes. because patient privacy is very important to them. The faxed messages in the hands of Miss Spilker been been shredded as well to avoid further PHI exposure.

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Christine Garcia is the staff writer on Calculated HIPAA. Christine has several years experience in writing about healthcare sector issues with a focus on the compliance and cybersecurity issues. Christine has developed in-depth knowledge of HIPAA regulations. You can contact Christine at [email protected]. You can follow Christine on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ChrisCalHIPAA