The Massachusetts Attorney General announced today that the former owners of a medical billing practice and four pathology groups have agreed to collectively pay $140,000 to settle allegations that medical records and patient billing information for “tens of thousands of Massachusetts patients were improperly disposed of at a public dump.” Under the settlements, the defendants have agreed to pay a total of $140,000 for civil penalties, attorney fees, and a data protection fund to support efforts to improve the security and privacy of sensitive health and financial information in Massachusetts.
The Attorney General alleged that Joseph and Louise Gagnon, d/b/a Goldthwait Associates, violated Massachusetts data security laws when they mishandled and improperly disposed of medical records containing personal information and protected health information from four Massachusetts pathology groups at the Georgetown (Mass.) Transfer Station. The medical records contained information for more than 67,000 residents including patient names, Social Security numbers, and medical diagnoses that were not redacted or destroyed when they were dumped. The other defendants involved in this settlement are Dr. Kevin Dole, former President of Chestnut Pathology Services, P.C.; Milford Pathology Associates, P.C.; Milton Pathology Associates, P.C.; and Pioneer Valley Pathology Associates, P.C.
This issue came to light in July 2010 when a Boston Globe photographer was disposing of his own trash at the Georgetown Transfer Station and observed a large mound of paper which, upon closer inspection, he determined were medical records. His discovery was reported in the Globe shortly thereafter.