L.A. Times Scoops the Snoops: How Ornstein Got the Dirt

getwellfarrasshheader.jpgPulitzer prize-winning reporter Charles Ornstein speaks to us about his story in today’s LAT which details yet another breach of confidentiality at UCLA Medical Center:

1. How did you get this story? Just as I was tipped off by a source about UCLA firing workers in the Britney Spears snooping, I similarly received a tip about the breach
involving Farrah Fawcett’s records. Her representatives confirmed the story and expressed concerns about the information being either leaked or sold to the tabloids. Public interest in medical privacy is increasing as more and more hospitals are moving toward fully electronic records. When readers hear about these celebrity cases, I think they wonder what’s being done to protect their confidential clinical information — whether about a life-threatening illness or a sexually transmitted disease.

2. How much did UCLA’s status as a public institution help? I don’t think UCLA’s status as a public institution affected this story one way or another. Dennis Quaid, whose babies received a drug overdose at Cedars-Sinai, told me that he believed there was a similar breach of his children’s records last year because the information appeared on TMZ before he had a chance to tell his family or friends.

Ultimately, the breaches become known to those affected by them. Hospitals across the country have been stung by revelations about
privacy breaches. In New Jersey, more than two dozen employees improperly accessed George Clooney’s records after a motorcyle accident last year. Before that, workers at another hospital tried to get into Bill Clinton’s records. Public or private, all hospitals are dealing with these issues.

3. What’s are you working on now? More about health care