Another HIPAA Criminal Conviction! HIPAA & HITECH Act Blog by Jonathan P. Tomes

JonTomesIn another HIPAA criminal conviction, a Texas hospital worker has been sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for criminal HIPAA violations. Joshua Hippler, 30, aTexas resident, was sentenced after pleading guilty on August 28, 2014, to wrongful disclosure of individually identifiable health information. In addition to his incarceration, the sentence also included three year of supervised release and an order to pay $12,152 in restitution. From December 2012 through January 2013, Hippler had been an employee of an unidentified East Texas hospital. During this time, he had obtained protected health information (“PHI”) with the intent to use it for personal gain, prosecutors said. The HIPAA violation came to light when Hippler was arrested in Georgia and found to be in possession of patient records (see the article by Marianne Kolbasuk McGee, “Former Hospital Worker Faces HIPAA Charges,” in the July 16, 2014, online issue of Healthcare Info Security).

This case, among others, illustrates that the federal government, through the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), the FBI, and other agencies, such as, in this case, the U.S. Postal Service, are aggressively enforcing the criminal portions of HIPAA. Surely, none of our readers is even remotely likely to commit a HIPAA crime, which requires a specific intent to do so, but could be liable for failure to have safeguards in place to prevent workforce members from doing so. UCLA Health System, for example, paid an $865,000 civil money penalty for failing to prevent a doctor from improperly accessing celebrity medical records out of curiosity.

If you need help with training your workforce, implementing reasonable and appropriate security measures, conducting an effective risk analysis to identify those reasonable and appropriate security measures, drafting policies and procedures, and otherwise making your organization HIPAA compliant, check out our HIPAA compliance products and services available on our website or, better yet, please call our marketing director, Patrick R. Head II, toll-free at 855-341-8783 or email him at We can help you with your HIPAA compliance efforts. It’s what we do. We want to help you early on to prevent such devastating fines and to avoid that free trip to Leavenworth.

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