Brandon woman says romantic rival leaked her medical info - WFLA News Channel 8

Brandon woman says romantic rival leaked her medical info

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Courtney Oliver: "no one's privacy should ever be invaded like that at all." Courtney Oliver: "no one's privacy should ever be invaded like that at all."
Members of the "love triangle": Courtney Oliver, Ryan Collins, Joanna Collins Members of the "love triangle": Courtney Oliver, Ryan Collins, Joanna Collins

Brandon resident Courtney Oliver, age 25, thought the bitter feud she was having with her boyfriend's soon-to-be ex-wife couldn't get any dirtier last December when her romantic rival dropped the v-bomb.

"It was shocking to me," said Oliver.

Oliver discovered that Joanna Collins, age 30, had gained access to her gynecological files.

"It wasn't anybody's business at all," Oliver said.

Collins worked in the Lakeland office of Women's Care, and apparently accessed Oliver's files electronically. Oliver recalls that employees at Women's Care described the breach as "breaking the glass."

Collins then leaked her findings to Collins' ex-husband (Oliver's boyfriend) in a clear breach of HIPAA privacy laws.

"It's super personal," said Oliver. "I was mad. I didn't know what to do."

Collins told 8 On Your Side she would have "no comment" for this story and hung up the phone.

Oliver complained about the HIPAA privacy violation to the Women's Care Florida office in Brandon where she has gone for health care for nine years.

Dr. Donald Wilson, the chief medical officer for Women's Care Florida, investigated the breach and confirmed it in a December 30 text that he sent to Oliver.

"Appropriate action was taken to prevent inappropriate disclosure of your personal health information in the future," wrote Women's Care Florida Chief Medical Officer Donald Wilson. "Joanna Collins is no longer working for our organization."

Women's Care now keeps Oliver's medical records in a more secure fashion.

"My records are on a lockdown," Oliver said. "Now they tell me 'you don't have to worry about it now'."

Oliver thought that wasn't good enough.

"I've never once gotten an apology," Oliver said. "He [Wilson] pretty much acted like this was just a little love triangle thing."

In frustration, Oliver filed a complaint with the Health and Human Services Office For Civil Rights, which enforces the HIPAA privacy law and has the power to pursue multimillion dollar fines and prison time for violators.

On April 9th, the OCR sent Oliver a letter officially confirming a HIPAA violation and saying it would offer Women's Care Florida "Technical Assistance" to prevent future problems.

The agency declared there would not be a formal investigation or punitive sanctions for anyone.

"Nobody got reprimanded, nothing happened," said Oliver.

Women's Care won't answer specific questions submitted by 8 On Your Side, but did respond with a written statement that proclaims "Women's Care Florida takes protection of patient privacy extremely seriously". The statement goes on to indicate the provider addressed the breach "expeditiously" and took steps "to assure such incidents do not occur in the future."

Even though the breach compromised Oliver's most personal medical records, the OCR's failure to pursue punitive measures comes as no surprise to USF public health expert Jay Wolfson.

"The heinousness of the act, the effect of the act and the damages involved were relatively contained to one victim of a love triangle," Wolfson said. "This was such a unique set of circumstances."

Wolfson explained that in larger cases involving breaches that compromise medical records of hundreds or thousands of patients, the OCR does take action, especially if there have been prior problems or privacy warnings.

In one such case just last week, the OCR fined a Missouri-based health care company called Concentra $1.7 million for failing to encrypt and protect medical data on hundreds of laptop computers, despite previous warnings.

Wolfson explains the federal agency has no appetite for going after offenders in cases involving single or isolated victims like Oliver.

But if there's another incident, Wolfson believes that Women's Care Florida might have a bigger problem.

"If it happens again, they will call it up and say 'you were warned about this once before'," said Wolfson."'We gotcha now'."

More info:

HIPAA Privacy Rules Summary

How to file a HIPAA complaint

Health information privacy overview

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