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Obstetrician faces jail time for HIPAA violation

The Department of Justice (DOJ) continues to crack down on pharmaceutical marketing practices. The most recent allegations involve an obstetrician who was accused of illegally providing patient information to a drug company.

More on the charges: What did the OB do wrong? The physician is accused of accepting almost $25,000 in speaking fees for a questionable educational event. According to the DOJ, the event took place in the physician’s office and the only attendee was a representative from the drug company.

The agency further claims the educational event lasted thirty minutes and included a meal provided by the drug rep.

Charges lead to an investigation: What did the DOJ find? The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) investigated the physician under suspicion of violating HIPAA. Allegedly, the physician instructed her assistants to tell the agency they did nothing wrong or else they could all face hefty fines.

The DOJ allegedly found evidence that the physician allowed the drug representative to access protected health information from her patients’ files.

Fear of fines: What types of penalties come with a HIPAA violation? The penalties vary depending on the details and whether or not the allegations are civil or criminal in nature. The American Medical Association notes that criminal penalties for a HIPAA violation can include a monetary fine of up to $50,000 and up to one year of prison time for each offense. However, if the DOJ can establish the accused intended to sell the information for commercial advantage or personal gain these penalties can increase to $250,000 in monetary fines and up to 10 years imprisonment.

The conviction serves as a reminder for health care professionals: HIPAA establishes criminal liability. A failure to abide by the protections outlined within HIPAA can lead to criminal conviction. Any medical professional who is under investigation by the DOJ for a HIPAA violation should take the matter seriously. An attorney can craft a response to the investigation to protect your interests and begin building a defense to any allegations of wrongdoing.

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