AP NEWS

Medical files found in dumpster in Tomball

May 23, 2019

The Tomball Police Department is investigating how boxes of medical records and personnel files ended up in dumpster.

Brandon Patin, a spokesperson for the department, said boxes of records from the Tomball and Willowbrook locations of Today’s Vision were found in a dumpster on Tuesday night.

“The investigators are just now getting into it,” he said.

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A whistleblower alerted KPRC about the dumped records, which can be considered a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, he said.

Greg Watson, executive director of Today’s Vision, said the physical medical files in the dumpster dating from 1997 to 2013 had been kept by a former licensee.

While the company’s letterhead was on the records, Watson said it’s up to the doctors managing the locations to be responsible for safeguarding patient information.

“Each Today’s Vision practice – there are 35 in the Houston area – is individually owned and operated. The TVLC corporate office acts as association helping provide its licensees with vendor discounts, practice management and other products and services to help its doctors,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Watson said the Tomball location was sold in 2014 to Dr. April Oliver, who keeps patient information electronically and a document shredding company disposes of paper records onsite.

The Willowbrook location was sold to another company in late February.

“Due to contractual obligations re the transition, TVLC is in the process of removing all references to Today’s Vision Willowbrook on the internet,” Watson wrote.

According to the federal law, health providers who violate patient privacy by not safeguarding medical information may be subject to fines and punishments.

In 2018, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center was fined $4.3 million for failing to secure patient records and a nurse at Texas Children’s Hospital was fired after posting information on social media about a boy being treated for measles.

mayra.cruz@chron.com

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