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Texas Healthcare Employee Facing Jail for Disclosure of Patient Health Information

A former employee of State of the Heart Cardiology in Grapevine, TX, has entered into a plea deal in a case filed against her for the improper disclosure of patient health information.

Ebony Shonte Echols, 35, agreed to plead guilty to the wrongful disclosure of Protected Health Information of a patient in the hope that she will avoid a jail term. The former healthcare worker was indicted in January, 2015, for disclosing patient data with malicious intent after getting into an argument with a patient.

The incident occurred in February, 2014. A pilot visited State of the Heart Cardiology in order to have a physical fitness exam conducted. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires all pilots to pass a physical examination by a FAA-authorized aviation medical examiner.

The commercial airline pilot got into an argument with Echols when he complained about the State of Heart Cardiology clinic. Echols subsequently told the patient he had been terminated as a patient of the clinic, and that she would be sending his medical records to the FAA. The pilot instructed her not to disclose the medical records, but Echols still sent them to the FAA against his wishes. According to the court documents, Echols disclosed the records with intent to cause malicious harm to the patient. Echols has also been charged with three counts of making false statements after lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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Echols has a history of insurance and medical fraud. She has previously been convicted of check-by theft on three separate occasions, using a patient’s financial information in order to make a transfer to pay her rent, and of committing insurance fraud. On one occasion she failed to identify herself as a fugitive. Echols can potentially be fined up to $50,000 and could serve a year in jail for the offences. The plea is awaiting formal approval from a judge.

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.