There are opinions on either side of this matter, but the legal consensus is: "this is a serious matter."
On June 22, a camera was stolen out of a Helen Devos Children Hospital physician's car. The camera contained photos of more than 900 patients' varying skin conditions, some of those photos included names and birth dates.
While it is normal to take photos like these, it is against protocol to not secure them. Spectrum Health put out a release regarding the incident just yesterday, and today, a lawyer explains they were required by federal law to publicly disclose the incident.
Nelson Miller, the Associate Dean of WMU Thomas Cooley Law School, says this is a violation of HIPPA. Health care providers are required to keep patient information secure, even from things like theft.
Miller said it does not appear there was any ill intent on Spectrum's behalf, but regardless, this is an issue that violates patient rights and has the potential to create damages should those photos be released.
From here, he said there are a couple different ways things can go. If the patients complain to the Department of Labor, the department will carry out an investigation to decide whether penalties should be applied. If the photos are publicly released by the thief and damages ensue, there could be patient lawsuits filed.
Miller said it is unlikely any criminal penalties would apply to this situation, but Spectrum could be looking at civil penalties for things like malpractice or negligence. Those penalties can result in fines up to a $1.5 million.
Miller also advises any patients impacted by this, whether concerned or not, should seek legal counsel on the matter.
The camera has still not been found.
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