Articles Posted in Patient Privacy

bruinlogo-150x150The University of California has offered to pay $73 million to settle with 5,000 women their class-action lawsuit asserting a staff gynecologist sexually abused them during medical procedures. This is yet another big case involving claims of years of widespread and sordid professional misconduct that somehow went undetected at a major institution, which has acknowledged it reacted poorly when confronted with a problematic clinician.

The proposed settlement still requires the sign-off of a federal judge, and it may not go through if more plaintiffs decide against joining this deal, as lawyers in Los Angeles have said they will not.

James Heaps, 67, a one-time gynecologist who is at the center of the scandal at UCLA, also still faces criminal charges for his actions during his 1983-2019 career at the university, in its student health center and at its medical center. The Los Angeles Times reported that the doctor was first arrested  in June 2019 for sexually touching two patients in 2017. But then:

docnotes-300x154Millions of Americans may be finding that their doctors routinely refer to them with terms like SOB and BS. But patients will be better off with this knowledge, once they learn how to translate medical abbreviations.

The Associated Press reported that hospitals and health care systems nationwide quietly are complying with deadlines, and, under a 2016 federal law, are opening up convenient, fast access to patients to not only view and access their electronic health records but also physicians’ notes about their care. As the AP wrote:

“If you already use a patient portal such as MyChart to email your doctor or schedule an appointment, you may soon see new options allowing you to view your doctor’s notes and see your test results as soon as they are available. You may get an email explaining where to look, how to share access with a caregiver and how to keep other eyes off your information. Many people won’t notice a change. About 15% of health care systems already are letting patients read doctor notes online without charge. That means about 53 million patients already have access to their doctor’s notes.”

cnndocsconditionreport-300x148Falsehoods, even when loudly repeated, do not magically become true. The Covid-19 pandemic rages across the United States, and the facts do not support in any way the myth that the nation is “rounding a corner” in seeing the disease diminish its destructive course or magically disappearing.

The toll of the coronavirus is ripping toward 210,000 deaths and more than 7.3 million infections, with those figures likely understated.

As the Washington Post reported of its data analysis:

ctracing-300x218As state and local officials struggle with constituents restless with measures designed to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, the next key phases in the battle with the novel coronavirus may prove yet more contentious. How ready are we to accept not just testing but also tracing and isolating infections?

The White House is bolting to a cut-and-run approach to fighting Covid-19, deflecting, denying and downplaying its staggering toll — more than 1 million infections and tens of thousands of deaths.

This already has led to a debacle with what needed to be an effective, widespread regimen of testing, testing, testing — not only to see who is infected now but also who may have been exposed to the disease and potentially have some immunity against it.

bluereport-300x128The University of Michigan is investigating allegations that Robert E. Anderson, former head of the university health service and physician to UM football teams coached by Bo Schembechler and Lloyd Carr, sexually assaulted youthful patients across decades.

Anderson worked for the university for more than 30 years and died in 2008. As the New York Times reported:

“Michigan said its campus police department had opened an inquiry last summer, after Warde Manuel, the athletic director, received a message from a former student who said that Anderson had engaged in abuse during medical exams in the ’70s. During the investigation, Michigan said, other people described ‘sexual misconduct and unnecessary medical exams,’ including at least one allegation that wrongdoing had occurred in the ’90s.”

alexahhs-150x150Federal regulators may be on the brink of not only protecting but also advancing patients access and use of a key component of their care: their electronic health records. Or will bureaucrats fold up in the face of a muscle campaign by corporate interests and hospitals?

To its credit, the giant Health and Human Services agency has emphasized that it is moving forward in its announced plans to prepare new regulations on so-called EHRs, pressing patients’ rights and newer, and potentially more nimble tech firms’ abilities to make the information in the records more accessible and helpful.

But Epic, the giant software company that has installed electronic systems in hospitals and health systems nationwide — often for billions of dollars — is leading resistance to the new rules. It has convinced dozens of institutions and groups, some sizable, to lobby officials to oppose this federal intervention.

The public’s health and safety sometimes find protections in the civil justice system and sometimes under regulators’ threat. Here’s hoping that whatever means are required, just and proper outcomes result.

For women, two separate suits have sought a modicum of justice for sexual abuse of talented young gymnasts by a predatory caregiver and damages tied to the maker of what has become a notorious material for supposed surgical repairs in the pelvic area.

For parents, the positive but potentially inconvenient recent news is that regulators finally have cracked down on risky baby sleepers, ordering the recall of tens of thousands more of them.

vcuhospital-300x200A  Virginia hospital has found an eyebrow-raising solution to some of  its struggles with elderly, poor, and sick patients who take up beds and medical resources that might generate more revenue and less headache for the institution: Administrators hired a law firm and turned to the courts to strip legal control over the frail seniors from their loved ones.

Over families’ objections, the seniors’ newly appointed guardians then allowed the patients to be moved out of the Virginia Commonwealth University Health System hospital in Richmond and into poorly rated nursing homes. As the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported:

“A yearlong investigation by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, which involved analyzing more than 250 court cases and interviewing more than two dozen people, revealed that VCU Health System has taken hundreds of low-income patients to court over the past decade to remove their rights to make decisions about their medical care. This process, which frees up hospital beds at VCU Health System and saves thousands in uncompensated costs, often results in sick, elderly or disabled patients being placed in poorly rated nursing homes, sometimes against the wishes of their own family members. In these cases, VCU Health asks the court to grant an attorney at the ThompsonMcMullan law firm the power to make critical medical and life decisions for its patients. The court orders the attorney to represent the best interests of those patients, but the law firm continues to look out for the hospital’s interests on dozens of guardianship cases each year.”

armstrong-240x300Neil Armstrong served as a naval aviator, test pilot, federal administrator, and a university professor. He earned his place in history as space pioneer — the first astronaut to walk on the moon. The American hero, who spoke the legendary phrase about “one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind,” also now offers a textbook case about nightmares in health care. Can others avoid these by learning about what happened to him?

As the nation celebrates the 50th anniversary of Armstrong’s Apollo 11 flight, an anonymous tipster has disclosed information to two news organizations that his death was due to botched care. His family, which included a lawyer who represented their interests, reached a $6 million settlement with the community hospital involved.

Armstrong was known for keeping out of the media and public glare. His family kept that tradition in keeping private how he died in 2012, why, and the tense negotiations that resulted in the sizable payment to them by the hospital. Full information about his case may never be fully disclosed. But it already provides a possible series of check points for patients to protect themselves and their loved ones in dealing with doctors and hospitals:

bruinlogo-300x225USC, Ohio State, Michigan State, and now, UCLA: How can big universities, with all the supposedly smart folks who head them, be so blind and deaf to student complaints that school personnel may be sexually abusing them? And why do academics keep getting caught up in situations where they appear to or may be covering up wrongdoing against the young?

Officials at the University of California Los Angeles find themselves apologizing profusely for failing to disclose that they knew of accusations of inappropriate conduct by a gynecologist on the school’s staff while treating patients in university facilities, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Women say that Dr. James Mason Heaps wrongly touched their private parts, and UCLA learned of the accusations in 2017, putting the longtime staff gynecologist on leave in 2018. The school, however, did not disclose why Heaps was gone — until criminal charges were filed against him in recent days and he pleaded not guilty to them in court.

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