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Buffalo Medical Group Says Alleged HIPAA Violations Are Unfounded

Last month, a breach notification letter was received by media outlets and at least one patient of the Buffalo Medical Group (BMG) warning that the protected health information (PHI) of certain patients had been impermissibly disclosed to an unauthorized individual. The letters were sent on BMG headed paper, and the letter indicated that it had been authored by three members of the BMG staff who chose to remain anonymous.

The letter claims that the PHI of certain patients had been impermissibly disclosed and the privacy violations had been brought to the attention of a dermatologist at BMG, yet nothing had been done.

The letter claimed that the privacy of patients was violated by a licensed practice nurse who had been disclosing patients’ PHI to a boyfriend. The offenses, which if true would have violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), had allegedly taken place some years previously.

According to the letter, when the nurse broke off the relationship in August 2015 the ex-boyfriend notified a dermatologist of the privacy violations. No action appeared to have been taken, and in early April the breach notification letters were sent.

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When BMG became aware of the letters an investigation into the alleged HIPAA breaches – referred to as HIPPA breaches in the letters – was immediately launched to determine if there was any truth in the accusations. Any allegations of HIPAA violations are treated seriously and are thoroughly investigated by BMG. BMG has a zero-tolerance policy for violations of HIPAA and takes action against any staff member discovered to have violated HIPAA Rules.

The investigation has now been completed and BMG has determined that the letters were fraudulent, the alleged HIPAA violations were unfounded, and the letter had not been sent by any members of the Buffalo Medical Group staff. The letters had apparently been sent with the intention of “harassing the individuals named in the letter.”

A statement released by Buffalo Medical Group said “the motives of the author are wholly unrelated to the professional conduct of the Buffalo Medical Group or its employees. The letter goes on to say “We are working with our advisors to take appropriate legal action against the responsible party.”

Author: Steve Alder is the editor-in-chief of HIPAA Journal. Steve is responsible for editorial policy regarding the topics covered on HIPAA Journal. He is a specialist on healthcare industry legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA and other related legal topics. Steve has developed a deep understanding of regulatory issues surrounding the use of information technology in the healthcare industry and has written hundreds of articles on HIPAA-related topics.