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A major case of snooping on celebrity medical records has been reported that has resulted in ‘dozens’ of healthcare workers being fired from Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital for accessing the medical records of Jussie Smollett without authorization.
Jussie Smollett attended the hospital’s emergency room for treatment for injuries sustained in an alleged racially motivated attack by two men on January 29, 2019.
Following a police investigation into the alleged attack, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson announced that the Empire actor had been arrested on February 21 and charged with disorderly conduct and filing a false police report. The police allege that the attack was a hoax and that it had been staged by Smollett as a publicity stunt.
Curiosity got the better of some employees at Northwestern Memorial Hospital who searched for Smollett on the hospital’s system, some of whom accessed his chart and viewed his medical records.
Accessing the medical records of patients without authorization is a violation of Health insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Rules and can result in disciplinary action and, in certain cases, criminal penalties for the employees concerned.
Northwestern Memorial Hospital reviewed PHI access logs and took decisive action over the privacy violations. Employees found to have snooped on Smollett’s medical records were fired.
Northwestern Memorial Hospital has neither confirmed that Smollett was a patient nor provided information about the number of employees that have been terminated, stating that HIPAA prevents such information from being disclosed.
Some employees that were terminated have spoken to the media about the incident. CBS Chicago claims dozens of hospital employees have been terminated for the HIPAA violations, and potentially up to 60. NBC Chicago has also reported there have been at least 50 terminations for snooping.