March 17, 2014 “Intelligence: Late Breaking Lab News”

People walking down a street in Weatherford, Connecticut on March 10, found lab test reports for at least 16 patients, according to a news report by a local television news station. This is a breach of protected health information (PHI) under the federal HIPAA statute. Reporters from WSFB contacted one of the patients whose lab test report was found. Not surprisingly, she stated that “This is too much information on it… personal information. I don’t think this should have happened.” It was reported that the lab test reports came from Clinical Laboratory Partners, LLC, of Newington, Connecticut, a lab company owned by Hartford Healthcare.

ADD TO: PRI Breach

This incident is a reminder to all clinical laboratories and pathology groups that breaches of PHI can happen in unexpected ways. In 2012, THE DARK REPORT covered the break-in and theft of 700 patient records at a patient service center operated by Health Care Clinical Laboratory in Stockton, California. (See TDR, May 14, 2012.) Earlier, in 2010, 67,000 pathology test reports were discovered at a public dump in Georgetown, Massachusetts. In this case, the billing company for four pathology groups had sent the records to be destroyed. The parties involved in this PHI breach paid $140,000 penalty to resolve this case. (See TDR, August 23, 2010.)

PRESIDENT’S BUDGET CUTS LAB FEES OVER 9 YEARS

It is not a good omen for the lab testing industry. When President Obama submitted his proposed federal budget for 2015 to Congress in recent weeks, it included an item that called for reducing Medicare Part B clinical laboratory test fees by 1.75% annually for the years 2016 through 2023. This would be an overall 14% reduction in reimbursement. It is now up to Congress to develop and pass its own budget, so the lab industry has time to educate elected officials about the consequences of enacting such lab test fee cuts.

TRANSITIONS

  • Michael Laposata, M.D. Ph.D., has been selected to be the next Chair of Pathology at University of Texas Galveston Branch, in Galveston, Texas. He will assume these duties on July 1, 2014. An academic pathologist, Laposta has held faculty positions at Vanderbilt University Medical School and Harvard University (Massachusetts General Hospital).

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