Mayo Clinic faces lawsuits after unauthorized access to records
Lawsuits brought after a former surgical resident viewed thousands of patient records without their consent.
The Mayo Clinic is facing a lawsuit alleging that a former surgical resident, Ahmad Al Sughayer, 28, of Saginaw, Mich., Searched the medical records of three patients, viewing nude photographs of them. The former resident reportedly consulted the records of 1,614 patients and was charged in April this year with unauthorized access to a computer.
Two of the lawsuits seek a class action status “For violating patient privacy and the right to seek compensatory damages over $ 50,000,” and were filed in Olmsted County Court against the Mayo Clinic and Al Sughayer.
The plaintiffs claim that Al Sughayer had no medical reason to access their records, and one of the lawsuits alleges that the Mayo Clinic “also failed to use a feature in its electronic health records system that would have limited access to highly sensitive medical records and prevented the violation. “Another lawsuit claims the clinic was aware of the matter but failed to notify the complainant or take precautions to prevent it from happening.
The Mayo Clinic said it had launched an investigation and, once it discovered that Al Sughayer had consulted the information, it informed authorities. In a statement released in October 2020, the company said, âThe Mayo Clinic is firmly committed to protecting the privacy of our patients, and we sincerely regret that this incident has occurred. “
On October 5, the Mayo Clinic’s privacy office sent letters to patients indicating that an anonymous employee “inappropriately accessed files containing their name, demographic information, date of birth. , their medical file number, clinical notes and, in some cases, pictures “. Due to the number of affected patients, Mayo Clinic staff notified the police and the FBI, and reported the suspicious activity to “applicable authorization boards.”
One of the lawsuits was filed by Minneapolis attorney Marshall Tanick on behalf of Olga Ryabchuk of Olmsted County.
“I am seeing a substantial increase in the number of cases involving inappropriate access to health records at medical facilities across the state,” Tanick said. “This may be due to the greater accessibility of these recordings in digital form, as well as an increase in voyeurism.”
In the computer age, it’s easier than ever to acquire access to patient records. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), a federal law designed to protect sensitive patient health information from disclosure without the patient’s consent or knowledge, is more difficult to enforce despite the best efforts of providers .
Tanick said he “was working on the assumption that Al Sughayer had accessed the records to view intimate photos of patients undergoing treatment for problems such as skin conditions and breast cancer.”
Another class action lawsuit was filed by attorneys Joshua Williams and AL Brown on Oct. 22 on behalf of Amanda Bloxton-Kippola of Michigan and Chelsea Turner of Minnesota. It remains to be seen whether anyone else aware of the unauthorized access will choose to pursue legal action, particularly if class action status is granted.