Breaches of Confidentiality and Medical Record Destruction from Warehouse Fire

The New York Times reports that over the weekend a seven-alarm fire at CitiStorage, a warehouse in the Williamsburg area of Brooklyn, destroyed and/or displaced the medical records of numerous New York physicians and facilities. If you are one of the affected physicians, there are several steps you can take:

– Call your professional liability insurance company to report a possible event.

– Review your contract with CitiStorage to ascertain what, if any obligations, they have in the event of destruction of records.

– If you are a HIPAA-Covered Entity, you should also have a Business Associate Agreement with the storage facility, outlining their obligation in the event of a breach or potential breach of information.

– Try to ascertain which patient records were affected. This task may be made easier if you have a separate patient list that you can access. Note the date and cause of destruction on the list. If there are old records of a current patient that were lost, place a note in the patient’s chart explaining the lack of prior records.

– Keep copies of the newspaper article reporting on the fire. If someone does file a claim for breach of confidentiality or if at some point you are unable to produce requested records due to their destruction, it will be helpful if you can clearly show the particular circumstances that led to the inadvertent breach or destruction of records.

– Keep copies of any insurance claims filed. This will further lend credence to your assertions that there were forces outside of your control that led to the destruction.

For more information, click here to view an article on recovery of records following a disaster.

Donna Vanderpool, MBA, JD – Vice PresidentAs Vice President of Risk Management, Ms. Vanderpool is responsible for the development and implementation of PRMS’s risk management services for The Psychiatrists’ Program. Ms. Vanderpool has developed expertise in the areas of HIPAA and forensic practice, and has consulted, written and spoken nationally on these and other healthcare law and risk management topics. She most recently wrote a chapter concerning the risks of harm to forensic experts for Robert L. Sadoff, MD’s book Ethical Issues in Forensic Psychiatry: Minimizing Harm, (Feb. 2011/Wiley). Ms. Vanderpool received her undergraduate degree from James Madison University, and her MBA and JD from George Mason University. Prior to joining PRMS in 2000, Ms. Vanderpool practiced criminal defense law, taught business and legal courses as an adjunct faculty member at a community college and spent eight years managing a general surgical practice in Virginia.

This blog has also been cross-posted on LinkedIn.

Categories: PRMS Blog, Risk Management