Several employees at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago have been fired for accessing Empire actor Jussie Smollett’s hospital records, violating the institution’s rules.
CBS Chicago and other media are reporting that “dozens” of workers might have been fired for looking at the records without authorization. So far, the hospital has declined comment, but reports indicate that some of the workers claim they simply scrolled past the records and didn’t view them.
A Northwestern spokesman, citing privacy rules and company policy, declined comment Thursday.
Federal laws limit who has access to medical records. The privacy rule applies to all forms of individuals’ protected health information, whether electronic, written, or oral. The security rule is a federal law that requires security for health information in electronic form. Successful lawsuits have been filed in many past cases of unauthorized access, with some cases resulting in awards of millions of dollars.
Celebrity medical records are particularly tempting targets. Locally, UCLA Medical Center fired at least 13 employees in 2008 and suspended at least six others for snooping in Britney Spears’s medical records during her hospitalization in its psychiatric unit.
Smollett was treated on Jan. 29 in the Northwestern emergency room after his alleged attack in downtown Chicago, a confrontation police now claim he staged. He is due back in court later this month to face charges.