Dozen of healthcare employees at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago have been terminated for snooping on the medical records of Jussie Smollett.
Jussie Smollett visited the hospital’s emergency room to be treated for injuries received in an alleged attack by two men on January 29, 2019. Smollett claimed that the attack was racially motivated and reported the incident to law enforcement. However, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson has since announced that Smollett was charged on February 21 on sixteen counts, including disorderly conduct and submitting a false police report. The police believe the attack was a hoax and publicity stunt and that Smollett paid two men to attack him.
After being treated at Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s emergency department, curious employees looked for Smollett’s records on the hospital’s system. Some accessed his chart and read his health care records, others just searched for his name.
It is considered a Health insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Rule violation to access the medical records of patients with no valid authorization or work reason for doing so. In such cases, employees could be subjected to disciplinary action by their employer and could even face criminal charges, although prosecutions for HIPAA violations are relatively rare.
Northwestern Memorial Hospital examined PHI access logs and decided to take action over the privacy violations. Workers discovered to have snooped on the medical records of Smollett were terminated and even some workers who claimed only to have searched for Smollett’s name on the system were similarly fired, according to several media reports.
Northwestern Memorial Hospital has not confirmed the number of employees that were fired over the privacy breaches, but CBS Chicago suggest up to 60 employees were fired over the privacy breaches and NBC Chicago claims the number is over 50.