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Ex-Los Angeles Healthcare Worker Pleads to Illegally Reading Confidential Medical Files of Celebrities

medical filesBy Allan Lengel
ticklethwire.com

Huping Zhou learned the hard way that peeking into confidential medical files can be hazardous to your well being.

The former UCLA Healthcare System employee in Los Angeles pleaded guilty Friday in U.S. District Court to four counts of illegally reading private and confidential medical records “mostly from celebrities and other high-profile patients”, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Zhou, 48, of Los Angeles, pleaded guilty to violating the federal privacy provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) by looking at the files for no valid reason. Authorities did not disclose the names of any celebrities.

Authorities said Zhou was a licensed cardiothoracic surgeon in China and worked for the UCLA Healthcare System as a researcher with the UCLA School of Medicine.

In October of 2003, his bosses informed him that he was going to be dismissed for job performance that was unrelated to his wandering eyes.

That night, authorities said,  Zhou “without any legal or medical reason, accessed and read his immediate supervisor’s medical records and those of other co-workers.”

Then for the next three weeks, he illegally accessed patient records that included various celebrities. In all, authorities say record showed he had illegally accessed files 323 times during the three-week period, “with most of the accesses involving well known celebrities.”

“There is a persistent problem with improper and illegal viewing of medical records by individuals who abuse the access they have as a result of their employment,” Acting United States Attorney George S. Cardona said in a statement.

Sentencing is set for March 22.


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