Dental practice fined for sharing patient details on social media

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A North Carolina dental practice has been fined hefty after disclosing a patient’s protected health information (PHI) online.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) launched an investigation into Dr. U. Phillip Igbinadolor, DMD, a. & Associates, PA, (UPI), in 2015 after receiving a complaint from a male patient.

The patient visited UPI’s Charlotte office twice between October 2013 and March 2014 for dental treatment. On or about September 28, 2015, the patient left a negative review from UPI on the dental practice’s Google page, using a pseudonym to disguise his identity.

UPI released a response to the review, dismissing the patient’s allegations as “baseless allegations.” In posting the response, the dental practice identified the patient, the symptoms the patient was experiencing, and the treatment that was recommended but not carried out.

The response, which included three mentions of the patient’s full name, also included the condescending and derogatory statement: “It is evident from the foregoing [Complainant’s full name] Intelligence level is questionable and he should continue with his manual work and not be ridiculed.”

Between 2016 and 2019, OCR requested various documents from UPI, including copies of the practice’s policies and procedures for responding to patient reviews online and for disclosing and securing PHI.

The practice responded differently by submitting irrelevant documents to OCR, submitting only part of the requested documentation, or refusing or ignoring the Bureau’s requests.

In a statement released Monday, the OCR said: “Dr. U. Phillip Igbinadolor, DMD. & Associates, PA (UPI), a dental practice with offices in Charlotte and Monroe, North Carolina, improperly disclosed a patient’s PHI on a website in response to a negative online review.

“UPI has not responded to OCR’s data request, responded to or objected to a regulatory subpoena, and waived its right to a hearing by not contesting the findings in OCR’s notice of the proposed provision.”

OCR issued a $50,000 civil fine against UPI after finding the practice improperly disclosed the patient’s PHI and classifying the violation as “willful negligence uncorrected.”

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