At a Tennessee Crossroads, Two Pharmacies, a Monkey, Millions of Pills


CELINA, Tenn. — It was about 1 a.m. on April 19, 2016, when a burglary alarm sounded at Dale Hollow Pharmacy in Celina, a tiny town in the rolling, wooded hills near the Kentucky border.

Two cops responded. As their flashlights bobbed in the darkness, shining through the pharmacy windows, they spotted a sign of a break-in: pill bottles scattered on the floor.

The cops called the co-owner, Thomas Weir, who arrived within minutes let them in. But as quickly as their flashlights beamed behind the counter, Weir demanded the cops leave. He said he’d rather someone “steal everything” than let them finish their search, according to a police report body camera footage from the scene.

“Get out of there right now!” Weir shouted, as if shooing off a mischievous dog. “Get out of there!”

The cops argued with Weir as he escorted them out. They left the pharmacy more suspicious than when they’d arrived, triggering a probe in a small town engulfed in one of the most outsize concentrations of opioids in a pill-ravaged nation.

Nearly six years later, federal prosecutors have unveiled a rare criminal case alleging that Celina pharmacy owners intentionally courted opioid seekers by filling dangerous prescriptions that would have been rejected elsewhere. The pharmacies are accused of giving cash handouts to keep customers coming back, one allegedly distributed its own currency, “monkey bucks,” inspired by a pet monkey that was once a common sight behind the counter. Two pharmacists admitted in plea agreements they attracted large numbers of patients from “long distances” by ignoring red flags indicating pills were being misused or resold. In their wake, prosecutors say, these Celina pharmacies left a rash of addiction, overdoses, deaths, millions in wasted tax dollars.

“I hate that this is what put us on the map,” said Tifinee Roach, 38, a lifelong Celina resident who works in a salon not far from the pharmacies recounted years of unfamiliar cars unfamiliar people filling the parking lots. “I hate that this is what we’re going to be known for.”

Celina, an old logging town of 1,900 people about two hours northeast of Nashville, was primed for this drug trade: In the shadow of a dying hospital, four pharmacies sat within 1,000 feet of each other, at the crux of two highways, dispensing millions of opioid pills. Before long, that intersection had single-handedly turned Tennessee’s Clay County into one of the nation’s pound-for-pound leaders of opioid distribution. In 2017, Celina pharmacies filled nearly two opioid prescriptions for every Clay County resident — more than three times the national rate — according to the Centers for Disease Control Prevention.

Visitors once came to Celina to tour its historical courthouse or drop their lines for smallmouth bass in the famed fishing lake nearby. Now they came for pills.

Soon after Weir’s police encounter in 2016, the Drug Enforcement Administration set its sights on his two Celina pharmacies, three doors apart — Dale Hollow Pharmacy Xpress Pharmacy. Separately, investigators examined the clinic of Dr. Gilbert Ghearing, which sat directly between Dale Hollow Xpress leased office space to a third pharmacy in the same building, Anderson Hometown Pharmacy. Its owners operators have not been charged with any crime.

In December, a federal judge unsealed indictments against Weir the other owners of Dale Hollow Xpress pharmacies, Charles “Bobby” Oakley Pamela Spivey, alleging they profited from attracting filling dangerous unjustifiable opioid prescriptions. Charges were also filed against William Donaldson, the former pharmacist owner of Dale Hollow, previously convicted of drug dealing, who allegedly recruited most of the customers for the scheme.

The pharmacists at Dale Hollow Xpress, John Polston Michael Griffith, pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy health care fraud charges agreed to cooperate with law enforcement against the other suspects.

Ghearing was indicted on drug distribution charges for allegedly writing unjustifiable opioid prescriptions in a separate case in 2019. He pleaded not guilty, his case is expected to go to trial in September.

‘An American Tragedy’

The Celina indictment comes as pharmacies enter an era of new accountability for the opioid crisis. In November, a federal jury in Clevelruled pharmacies at CVS, Walgreens, Walmart could be held financially responsible for fueling the opioid crisis by recklessly distributing massive amounts of pain pills in two Ohio counties. The ruling — a first of its kind — is expected to reverberate through thousands of similar lawsuits filed nationwide.

Criminal prosecutions for such actions remain exceedingly rare. The Department of Justice in recent years increased prosecutions of doctors pain clinic staffers who overprescribed opioids but files far fewer charges against pharmacists, barely any against pharmacy owners, who are generally harder to hold directly responsible for prescriptions filled at their establishments.

In a review of about 1,000 news releases about legal enforcement actions taken by the Department of Health Human Services since 2019, KHN identified fewer than 10 similar cases involving pharmacists or pharmacy owners being criminally charged for filling opioid prescriptions. Among those few similar cases, none involved allegations of so many opioids flowing readily through such a small place.

The Celina case is also the first time the Department of Justice sought a restraining order preliminary injunction against pharmacies under the Controlled Substances Act, said David Boling, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee. DOJ used the civil filing to shut down Dale Hollow Xpress pharmacies quickly in 2019, allowing prosecutors more time to build a criminal case against the pharmacy owners.

Former U.S. Attorney Don Cochran, who oversaw much of the investigation, said the crisis in Celina was so severe it warranted a swift unique response.

Cochran said it once made sense for small pharmacies to be clustered in Celina, where a rural hospital served the surrounding area. But as the hospital shriveled toward closure, as have a dozen others in Tennessee, the competing pharmacies turned to opioids to sustain themselves got hooked on the profits, he said.

“It’s an American tragedy, I think the town was a victim in this,” Cochran said. “The salt-of-the-earth, blue-collar folks that lived there were victimized by these people in these pharmacies. I think they knew full well this was not a medical necessity. It was just a money-making cash machine for them.”

And much of that money came from taxpayers. In its court filings, DOJ argues the pharmacies sought out customers with Medicaid or Medicare coverage — or signed them up if they didn’t have it. To keep these customers coming back, the pharmacies covered their copays or paid cash kickbacks whenever they filled a prescription, prosecutors allege. The pharmacies collected more than $2.4 million from Medicare for opioids other controlled substances from 2012 to 2018, according to the court filings.

Prosecutors say the pharmacies also paid kickbacks to retain profitable customers with non-opioid prescriptions. In one case, Dale Hollow gave $100 “payouts” to a patient whenever they filled his prescription for mysoline, an anti-seizure drug, then used those prescriptions to collect more than $237,000 from Medicare, according to Polston’s plea agreement.

Attorneys for Weir, Oakley, Donaldson, Spivey, Polston, Griffith either declined to comment for this article or did not respond to requests for comment.

Ronald Chapman, an attorney for Ghearing, defended the doctor’s prescriptions, saying he’d done “the best he [could] with what was available” in a rural setting with no resources or expertise in pain management.

Chapman added that, while he does not represent the other Celina suspects, he had a theory as to why they drew the attention of federal law enforcement. As large corporate pharmacies made agreements with the federal government to be more stringent about opioid prescriptions, they filled fewer of them. Customers then turned to smaller pharmacies in rural areas to get their drugs, he said.

“I’m not sure if that’s what happened in this case, but I’ve seen it happen in many small towns in America. The only CVS down the street, or the only Rite Aid down the street, is cutting off every provider who prescribes opioids, leaving it to smaller pharmacies to do the work,” Chapman said.

Donaldson, reached briefly at his home in Celina on March 9, insisted the allegations levied against Dale Hollow Xpress could apply to many pharmacies in the region.

“It wasn’t just them,” Donaldson said.

The Monkey the Monkey Bucks

Long before it was called Dale Hollow Pharmacy, the blue-and-white building that moved millions of pills through Celina was Donaldson Pharmacy, Donaldson was behind the counter doling out pills.

Donaldson owned operated the pharmacy for decades as the eccentric son of one of the most prominent families in Celina, where a street, a park, many businesses bear his surname. Even now, despite Donaldson’s prior conviction for opioid crimes his new indictment, an advertisement for “Donaldson Pharmacy” hangs at the entrance of a nearby high school.

“Bill has always had a heart of gold, he would help anyone he could. I just think he let that, well …” said Pam Goad, a neighbor, trailing off. “He’s always had a heart of gold.”

According to interviews with about 20 Celina residents, including Clay County Sheriff Brandon Boone, Donaldson is also known to keep a menagerie of exotic animals, at one point including at least two giraffes, a monkey companion, “Carlos,” whom he dressed in clothing.

A paper sign on the door of Dale Hollow Pharmacy bars animals from the property. A former owner of the property, William Donaldson, once let his monkey frequent the pharmacy. The pharmacy is accused of later introducing “monkey bucks” to entice opioid-seeking customers.(Brett Kelman / KHN)

The monkey — a mainstay at Donaldson Pharmacy for years — both attracted deterred customers. Linda Nelson, who owns a nearby business, said Carlos once escaped the pharmacy and, during a scrap with a neighbor’s dogs, tore down her mailbox by snapping its wooden post in half.

But the monkey wasn’t the only reason Donaldson Pharmacy stood out.

According to a DEA opioid database published by The Washington Post, Donaldson Pharmacy distributed nearly 3 million oxycodone hydrocodone pills from 2006 to 2014, making it the nation’s 20th-highest per capita distributor during that period. It retained its ranking even though the pharmacy closed in 2011, when Donaldson was indicted for dispensing hydrocodone without a valid prescription.

Donaldson confessed to drug distribution was sentenced to 15 months in prison. The pharmacy’s name was changed to Dale Hollow ended up with Donaldson’s brother-in-law, Oakley. In 2014, Oakley sold 51% of the business to Weir, who also bought a majority stake of Xpress Pharmacy, three doors away, according to the DOJ’s civil complaint.

Under Weir’s leadership, these two pharmacies became an opioid hub with few equals, prosecutors say. From 2015 to 2018, Dale Hollow Xpress pharmacies were the fourth-11th-highest per capita opioid purchasers in the nation, according to the DOJ, citing internal DEA data.

Many of these prescriptions were for Subutex, an opioid that can be used to treat addiction but is itself prone to abuse. Unless the patient is pregnant or nursing or has a documented allergy, Tennessee law requires doctors instead to prescribe Suboxone, an alternative that is much harder to abuse.

But at the Celina pharmacies, prescriptions for Subutex outnumbered those for Suboxone by at least 4-to-1, prosecutors say. In their plea agreements, pharmacists from Dale Hollow Xpress described stores that thrived on the trade in Subutex, said Weir set “mandates” for how many Subutex prescriptions to fill instructed them to “never run out.”

Griffith, the head pharmacist at Xpress, said the pharmacy in 2015 created flyers specifically advertising Subutex, then delivered them on trays of cookies to practices throughout Tennessee, including some hours away. In the following two years, the amount of Subutex dispensed by Xpress increased by about eightyfold, according to his plea agreement.

Dale Hollow didn’t need flyers or cookies. It had Donaldson.

After getting out of prison in 2014, Donaldson was hired by the pharmacy he once owned, where he “recruited controlled” about 50% to 90% of customers, according to the indictment filed against him. The pharmacy also enticed customers by distributing a Monopoly-like currency called “monkey bucks” — an apparent callback to Carlos — that could be spent at the pharmacy like cash, the indictment states.

Prosecutors also allege that, from a desk inside Dale Hollow, Donaldson would sign customers up for Medicare or Medicaid, then use a vehicle provided by the pharmacy to drive them to a doctor’s office to get opioid prescriptions, then back to Dale Hollow where he’d offer to cover their copays himself if they kept their business at the pharmacy. Sometimes, he would text the Dale Hollow pharmacist with instructions to fill specific prescriptions, or just to fill more of them, according to federal court records.

“Y’all have got to get your numbers up. Fill fill,” Donaldson texted Polston in 2018, according to his plea agreement.

By then, however, all those prescriptions had drawn unwanted attention.

In August 2018, Dale Hollow Xpress pharmacies were raided by DEA agents, who brought with them Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera a television crew. Six months later, DOJ filed its civil complaint, persuading a federal judge to immediately close both pharmacies.

Today, Dale Hollow Pharmacy sits shuttered, as it has been for the past three years, a paper sign taped to the door says animals are not allowed inside by order of the DEA. The building that was once Xpress Pharmacy reopened this year as an unrelated pharmacy with a fresh coat of paint. Ghearing’s clinic Anderson Hometown Pharmacy are closed.

Most of Celina’s opioid prescriptions are gone, too. According to the latest available CDC data, Clay County reported about 32 opioid prescriptions per 100 residents in 2020 — one-sixth the rate of 2017’s.

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Colorado Doubles Down on Abortion Rights as Other States — And the High Court — Reconsider


With the Supreme Court expected to overturn or severely weaken its landmark Roe v. Wade decision, clinics in Colorado are preparing for an increase in the number of out-of-state residents seeking abortions, lawmakers are cementing abortion access protections in state law.

Colorado is one of the few states without any restrictions on when in pregnancy an abortion can occur is one of the few states in the region without a mandatory waiting period of up to 72 hours after required abortion counseling.

When the Supreme Court heard arguments in December on a Mississippi law that restricts access to abortion, questions from the new conservative majority appeared sympathetic to the notion that states should be allowed to decide their abortion policies. While legislatures in many Mountain West Great Plains states are working to dismantle abortion rights, Colorado lawmakers are reinforcing the state’s safeguards. If the justices overturn the 49-year-old decision that protects the right to an abortion, the expectation is that the demfor abortions in Colorado from people who live in those nearby states where abortion is being restricted will rise.

“We’re planning on it,” said Margie Andersohn, practice manager at Healthy Futures for Women, a clinic in the Denver area that is trying to hire more staffers recently purchased equipment that will enable it to perform abortions later than 20 weeks into pregnancy.

“We really do anticipate a lot more demover the summer, unfortunately,” said Dr. Rebecca Cohen, medical director of the Comprehensive Women’s Health Center in Denver, referring to the potential effect of the Supreme Court decision.

Andersohn said demat the Healthy Futures for Women clinic increased after Texas passed a law that bans most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy offers a reward to people who successfully sue someone who provided an abortion or helped a patient get one. The Supreme Court refused to block the law in early challenges. (Idaho recently passed a similar law.) At the clinic, appointments are being scheduled several days in advance, instead of the clinic’s preferred 24- to 48-hour window.

“Women are flooding in from Texas,” she said.

At the Comprehensive Women’s Health Clinic, Texans make up a fifth of all patients on some days, appointments are backlogged for several weeks, according to Cohen. She said the out-of-state patients tend to be further along in pregnancy, either because they needed time to sort out their work travel logistics to get to a clinic with available appointments or because they encountered problems later in pregnancy that put their health or the fetus in danger, like their water breaking early.

“They can develop heavy bleeding, they can develop infection, there’s also a very high risk that the fetus won’t survive,” Cohen said. “The safest thing to do is to end the pregnancy, but they’re just not able to access that care in Texas.”

The Texas law permits abortions after six weeks when a pregnancy threatens the woman’s life or threatens a medical emergency.

The influx of out-of-staters coming to Colorado for abortions is creating a “domino effect,” pushing Colorado residents — especially in parts of the state with few clinics — to travel farther to find care, said Amanda Carlson, director of the Cobalt Abortion Fund. Cobalt helps people pay for travel, accommodations, child care while they are seeking an abortion in Colorado. In late 2021, a third of its recipients were Texans.

Some Colorado clinics are struggling to keep up with the rising demand. Cohen’s clinic has launched a telehealth program to accommodate people who are eligible for medication abortions but need to be physically in Colorado for their consultation when taking the medication. Health care worker shortages are making finding qualified staffers difficult, Cohen said.

The effects of the Texas law on Colorado may be just the beginning. Three of Colorado’s immediate neighbors are “certain or likely to attempt to ban abortion immediately” if Roe v. Wade is compromised, the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights, projects. A fourth, Kansas, will ask voters in August to decide whether to change its constitution so that abortion is no longer considered a fundamental right.

About 10,400 people received abortions in Colorado in 2020, about 13% of them came from out of state, according to the most recent data available from the Colorado health department.

Traveling to Colorado may become the best option for people seeking abortions from a wider range of states if Roe is struck down. Kari White, a researcher at the University of Texas-Austin, said the early part of the covid-19 pandemic offered a glimpse of how demwould look in a post-Roe nation, because states including Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas temporarily prohibited abortion, deeming it a nonessential procedure.

During that time, most Texans who needed abortions traveled to New Mexico, Colorado, or Kansas, White said — patterns that could be a sign of what’s to come.

“Your ability to exercise your reproductive autonomy is going to be incredibly dependent on where you live,” White said.

White found that in the four months after Texas implemented its law in 2021, the number of Texans seeking abortions out of state was 5,500, compared with 500 during the same period in 2019. Nearly half went to Oklahoma, which is now advancing several anti-abortion bills modeled on the Texas bill. Some also went to Kansas — which provided half of all its abortions in 2019 to out-of-staters.

Colorado, with about 20 abortion clinics, offers much more access than Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, each of which has about five. It would be one of the few states west of the Mississippi River that plans to protect abortion access in the event the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

In that landscape, Colorado is viewed as “a safe state for abortion access reproductive health,” said Katherine Riley, policy director for the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity Reproductive Rights, or COLOR.

But Colorado state law doesn’t explicitly guarantee access to an abortion. Legislators in the Democratic-controlled General Assembly just passed a bill that establishes that every pregnant individual “has a fundamental right to continue a pregnancy give birth or to have an abortion.” Democratic Gov. Jared Polis has said he would sign it into law.

The bill does not include any funding for low-income women to get abortions, which abortion rights proponents say will continue to limit access. A constitutional amendment from the 1980s forbids public funding of abortion, that means low-income residents often are forced to pay out-of-pocket. Federal Medicaid funds also can’t be used to cover abortions. But Medicaid is a joint federal-state program, 16 states use their own Medicaid funds to cover the procedure.

Rep. Meg Froelich, a Democrat from Greenwood Village, Colorado, who is one of the bill’s sponsors, said the measure would prevent counties, municipalities, or any local entity from reversing abortion protections if Roe falls. “That was one of the main reasons why we felt it was really important to get this on the books,” Froelich said.

But COLOR’s Riley said the new Colorado bill is not enough to permanently protect abortion access, pointing to the strong opposition by Republican lawmakers. She sees the bill as a stopgap measure until 2024, when abortion-rights advocates hope to present Coloradans with a ballot measure that would enshrine access in the state constitution.

“This will hold us,” Froelich said of the bill. “We do feel like this carries us into 2024.”

Conservative lawmakers in states considering abortion bans have recognized that residents may look to states such as Colorado in the future. In Missouri, where a state law banning most abortions after eight weeks of pregnancy is being challenged in court, one legislator is trying to make it illegal to help a Missouri resident get an abortion, regardless of what state it occurs in.

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NHSO, NT Bitkub partner to build Thailand’s national health platform on blockchain

Thailand’s National Health Security Office, National Telecommunications Public Co., Bitkub World Tech, have teamed up to develop a national health platform that integrates the country’s various health services.

On Monday, the parties signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for a project where they will jointly study, test, develop new digital technologies in data linkage with the aim of further digitising the delivery of healthcare services in Thailand.

Under this collaboration, the NHSO, which manages the country’s national health insurance scheme, will provide information, policies, regulations related to the development of the health platform, while the state-owned telecommunications firm NT will deliver its telecommunication IT systems, such as internet network services, 4G 5G networks, cloud computing, cybersecurity data centres.

Meanwhile, Bitkub World Tech, a joint venture firm by cryptocurrency exchange Bitkub the Thongtang Group, will help develop digital health IDs run the health platform on the blockchain. It was said that the application of blockchain technology will enable the verification protection of patients’ personal information.

The national health platform is targeted to be piloted by the end of the year, once it completes the integration of various health datasets, including ​​those data involving migrant workers from neighbouring countries. 

WHY IT MATTERS

Anutin Charnvirakul, deputy prime minister minister of public health, said the Thai government intends to improve the quality of public health services in the country by using modern technology to connect integrate health data efficiently holistically. Doing so, he said, requires cooperation from the public private sectors.

The national health platform is envisioned to support equality in access to healthcare, as well as the development of telemedicine. Through the platform, patients can book health appointments, check their insurance coverage, receive compensation. 

THE LARGER TREND

Last year, five organisations from the public private sectors joined forces to work on a project that will create a 5G-powered smart medical information full-service system. Called the ThailHealth Data Space 5G, the project marks the first phase of development of Thailand’s Big Data Health Information platform, which comprises big data infrastructure, a nationwide information system of hospital networks, a network of health service applications.

NT was also involved in a public-private partnership project last year that built the BKK HI Care telemedicine platform for monitoring COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms at home at community isolation centres. 

In September last year, Huawei Thailsigned an MOU with the Department of Medical Services to bring 5G technologies to two public hospitals, National Cancer Institute Rajavithi Hospital.



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Latest HIMSS report features APAC digital health transformation stories during COVID-19

HIMSS has recently published a report that looks into the digital transformation journeys of Asia-Pacific health organisations during the ongoing pandemic.

Their notable efforts are covered in the first volume of the quarterly Digital Excellence in Healthcare: APAC Case Studies series.

This inaugural series has two areas of focus. In one area, it places a spotlight on organisations that have leveraged HIMSS’ evidence-based models frameworks in their transformation journeys. 

Case studies include QueenslHealth in Australia Korea University Anam Hospital in South Korea, which were previously reported to have used the HIMSS Digital Health Indicator to comprehensively assess their digital systems. 

Karuna Trust’s Tavarekere Urban Primary Health Center in India recently underwent the HIMSS Outpatient Electronic Medical Record Adoption Model assessment to check whether its ongoing digitisation efforts are in tune with advancements in modern healthcare. Its case study is also included in the compilation.

The report also covers case studies of organisations that have undertaken digital technology projects to address their pandemic-related challenges. 

It highlights efforts by Baby Memorial Hospital in India, which has redesigned its system to manage COVID-19, the National University Health System in Singapore, which has saved over 5,000 bed days by setting up a COVID-19 virtual ward.

“Healthcare organisations have seen the value of digital technologies during a highly contagious pandemic how they can also help to create resilient health ecosystems,” said Simon Lin, VP executive director of HIMSS APAC.

Despite new persisting challenges in digital transformation, “many healthcare organisations in APAC have pressed on harnessed digital technologies to improve clinical outcomes, financial viability or operational efficiencies,” he added.

Access the full report here.



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OCR steps up HIPAA enforcement, with 4 news providers facing settlements

The HHS Office for Civil Rights this past week announced the outcomes of three HIPAA investigations brought another matter before a judge, signaling a continued prioritization of patients’ rights to privacy health data access under the law.

WHY IT MATTERS
Two of these cases are part of OCR’s HIPAA Right of Access Initiative, two are enforcement actions resulting from impermissible disclosure of patients’ protected health information. Three of them involve dental practices.

  • Jacob Associates, a psychiatric medical services provider with two office locations in California, said it would take corrective actions pay $28,000 to settle potential violations of the HIPAA Privacy Rule, according to OCR, including provisions of the right of access standard.
  • Northcutt Dental, an Alabama-based practice is alleged to have impermissibly disclosed its patients’ PHI to a campaign manager a third-party marketing company hired to help with a state senate election campaign. It as agreed to take corrective action pay $62,500 to settle potential violations of the HIPAA Privacy Rule, says OCR.
  • Dr. Donald Brockley, a solo dental practitioner in Butler, Pennsylvania, failed to provide a patient with a copy of their medical record, OCR alleges. Brockley requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge; the litigation was resolved before the court made a determination by a settlement agreement in which Brockley agreed to pay $30,000 take corrective actions to comply with the HIPAA Privacy Rule’s right of access standard.
  • Dr. U. Phillip Igbinadolor, DMD & Associates, a North Carolina dental practice, impermissibly disclosed a patient’s PHI on a webpage in response to a negative online review, OCR alleges. The practice also did not respond to the OCR’s data request, nor responde or objected to an administrative subpoena waived its rights to a hearing by not contesting the findings in OCR’s Notice of Proposed Determination. OCR imposed a $50,000 civil money penalty.

THE LARGER TREND
The two new right of access settlements bring the total number of  enforcement actions to 27 since the initiative began in 2019. Over the past three years OCR has collected more than two-dozen settlements, usually in the tens of thousands of dollars, as it promised to “vigorously enforce” the patients’ right to access their data in a timely fashion without being overcharged.

Still some patients are still forced to sue to gain access to their own healthcare data. Sometimes, the hindrances are deliberate. Oftentimes, they come from providers’ misunderstanding of what the HIPAA Privacy Law stipulates.

Click here for a podcast interview with healthcare privacy attorney Matthew Fisher, who discussed somee proposed HIPAA changes spoke in-depth about OCR’s continued emphasis on patient right of access. 

ON THE RECORD
“Between the rising pace of breaches of unsecured protected health information continued cybersecurity threats impacting the healthcare industry, it is critical that covered entities take their HIPAA compliance responsibilities seriously,” said OCR Director Lisa J. Pino, in a statement announcing the new enforcements. “OCR will continue our steadfast commitment to protect individuals’ health information privacy security through enforcement, we will pursue civil money penalties for violations that are not addressed.”

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: [email protected]

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS publication.





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