What to Know
- An Upper East Side medical office is scrambling for answers after the I-Team found hundreds of their medical files thrown out with the trash
- Several boxes of medical records were found outside an office building on East 76th Street, all the folders belonging to a doctor's office
- In the boxes were hundreds of files listing patient names, social security number, sensitive medical diagnoses and even colonoscopy photos
An Upper East Side medical office is scrambling for answers after the NBC New York I-Team found hundreds of their medical files thrown out with the trash.
The I-Team found several boxes of medical records outside an Upper East Side office building on East 76th Street. There are several offices inside, but all the folders that had been thrown out to the curb are from one office shared by Dr. Jonathan Warman and Dr. Alexander Chun.
Inside the boxes were hundreds of files listing patient names, social security numbers and sensitive medical diagnoses. Because they are gastroenterologists, there were also many pictures taken during colonoscopies.
Dr. Susan Vaughn was in disbelief when the I-Team revealed her patient folder.
“I’m a doctor myself and the concept that you would pick this off the street on the Upper East side of Manhattan is horrifying, it’s completely inappropriate.”
Lilly Wei was also concerned when we handed over her patient folder.
“Deeply disturbed because you just don’t expect your records to be out there in the world on the street," Wei said.
Medical records are fiercely protected under privacy laws known as HIPAA. In fact, every patient who sees Dr. Chun and Dr. Warman, has to sign a patient privacy form — affirming that the “practice is required by law” to maintain the privacy of this record.
Doctors are required to safeguard the records and to destroy them properly. Failure to comply with HIPAA can be expensive.
Last year, a medical records maintenance company was fined $100,000 for leaving protected health information in an unlocked truck in a public parking lot. And a California hospital system was fined 3 million dollars for not securing patient information on their servers, leading to exposure of private information of 62,500 patients.
Dr. Warman told the I-Team that they had recently moved to a new office down the hall. Old charts remained in their former office, he said, waiting to be picked up by the shredding company, adding that the lone shredder bin had become full.
“Whatever charts that were waiting to be shredded were by the bin to be shredded,” he told us in an on-camera interview. “People who have come into our office to clean things out, they may have thrown out things of ours inadvertently.”
An attorney for Dr. Warman and Dr. Chun said in a statement that both doctors “categorically deny disposing of any of their patients’ protected health information,” and that they have “policies and procedures in place regarding the safeguarding and/or disposal of their patients’ protected health information.” The attorney also adds that the “investigation thus far seems to indicate that the records were improperly taken and removed from a locked premises without our clients’ permission.”
The doctors have requested the I-Team return their files. This time, they promise to properly dispose them.