Last week, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle tentatively approved a $4.1 million settlement of a class action claim that Stanford Hospital & Clinics violated the California Confidentiality of Medical Information Act when the medical information of about 20,000 emergency room patients was posted online for nearly a year from 2010 until 2011.
The suit was initiated by Shana Springer in 2011. She sued both Stanford and Multi-Specialty Collection Services, LLC (“MSCS”) for compromising medical record numbers, hospital account numbers, billing charges, and admission and discharge dates. Stanford claimed that it sent the medical information at issue to its service provider, MSCS, in an encrypted format, and MSCS then improperly disclosed unencrypted information. The unencrypted patient information later appeared on a student homework website, Student of Fortune, that is no longer operational.
As soon as Stanford learned that patient information was improperly posted online, it had the information removed from the website. Stanford also notified affected patients, provided identity protection services free of charge, and severed ties with MSCS. To date, it appears that there has been no evidence of the patient information being used for improper purposes.
If the settlement receives final approval, each affected patient would receive just over $100. The settlement also contemplates an educational program for medical professionals regarding the protection of patient records. Stanford has said that MSCS will fund most of the settlement, although Stanford will cover costs for the educational program and certain administrative costs.