Former Patient Coordinator Pleads Guilty in Criminal HIPAA Case

A former patient coordinator at UPMC, a medical center in Pittsburgh, has pleaded guilty to wrongfully disclosing health information in a rare case involving criminal prosecution for violating HIPAA. The Department of Justice says Linda Sue Kalina, 61, pleaded guilty in a Pittsburgh federal court to one count of unlawfully disclosing patient information, as reported by Bankinfo Security.

This individual accessed the records of scores of patients over a period of 18 months. She targeted the employees and managers of a local construction company that was a former employer, ultimately disclosing PHI in order to embarrass and harass these employees.

Kalina had been indicted by a federal grand jury last June on six counts, including wrongfully obtaining and disclosing health information in violation of HIPAA, and wrongfully disclosing health information with the intent to cause malicious harm.

Prosecutors say Kalina worked from March 7, 2016, through June 23, 2017, as a patient information coordinator at UPMC and its affiliate, Tri Rivers Musculoskeletal Centers in Mars, Pennsylvania. "Specifically, on Aug 11, 2017, Kalina unlawfully disclosed personal gynecological health information related to two such patients, with the intent to cause those individuals embarrassment and mental distress," the Justice Department statement says.

A possible motive for the violations appears to be retaliation for dismissal by a previous employer. Prosecutors said Kalina's disclosures of patient information involved the medical records of two employees of a construction company, where Kalina had worked for 24 years before being fired, according to the Post Gazette.

Prosecutors said Kalina accessed patient files of two Frank J. Zottola Construction company employees and sent an email to the firm's controller in June 2017 in which she revealed gynecological records for one of them identified as "P.W.," a woman who had taken her place at Zottola as office manager, according to the Post Gazzete.

Kalina also allegedly left a voicemail on the company's answering machine in August 2017 revealing medical information about P.W. and another employee, "C.C." That disclosure is the count to which she pleaded guilty, the newspaper reports.

Without proper training, employees are left to exercise their own judgment, which is often flawed. The impulsive decisions of individuals can adversely affect your practice long-term. Make sure your employees are informed and accountable with a training program through HIPAAcraticRx.

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