|Updated: 7/21/2009 8:07 am
||Published: 7/20/2009 2:52 pm
A Little Rock doctor and two former St. Vincent's employees enter guilty pleas for illegally viewing Anne Pressly's medical records. Dr. Rick Holland and former St. Vincent's employees Candida Griffin and Sarah Elizabeth Miller all admitted to looking at medical records belonging to Anne Pressly because they were "curious."
None wanted to talk after leaving federal court. Dr. Holland didn’t didn't answer any questions, but his attorney Ralph Cloar said he knows of only 8 HIPPA prosecutions nationwide since the law went into effect.
Dr. Robert Steinbuch, an associate professor at UALR William Bowen School of Law in Little Rock, says federal prosecutions like this are usually tied to a celebrity, where patient information is leaked to the press. In Pressly's case, a patient audit conducted by St. Vincent's turned up eight illegal accesses to her medical information.
"For individuals like you and I, if our privacy is invaded we may never even know it," Steinbuch says. "And as a consequence prosecutors may not know it, so they are very rarely prosecuted."
According to court documents, Miller viewed Pressly's file a dozen times "for no legitimate purpose" the day the anchorwoman entered St. Vincent's on October 20, 2008.
Jane Duke, U.S Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, is sending a message to the medical community that being curious is still breaking the law.
"The U.S attorney was right on when she said it's important to enforce this law," Steinbuch says. "After all, Congress enacted this law to protect the privacy of patients and without enforcing the law it's meaningless."
All three reached a plea deal with the government.