Allina Fires 32 Employees For Snooping At Patient Records

By John Lauritsen, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Nearly three dozen hospital workers at Allina Hospitals were fired Thursday after violating privacy rules involving a high-profile overdose case.

Trevor Robinson died in March after he took a drug you can buy over the Internet called 2C-E. Ten others got sick.

Twenty-one-year-old Timothy Lamere is accused of third-degree murder for allegedly handing out the drug at a spring break party in Blaine.

Allina Hospitals fired 32 hospital workers, 28 from Unity and four from Mercy. About 15 of the employees were nurses. The reason for the firings is the same for all of them: Looking up medical information about Trevor Robinson and the other people involved without permission.

“Our actions in this matter are completely consistent with how we have always dealt with these cases. And in our view, anything short of a zero-tolerance approach would be inadequate,” said David Kanihan, spokesman for Allina Hospitals.

Kanihan said Allina does spot-checks and audits on medical records to make sure no one is violating HIPAA laws. That’s what led them to these employees.

“I think they should have been slapped on the hand, but not sent on their way,” said John Robinson, Trevor’s brother.

John Robinson said he doesn’t blame the hospital workers for wanting to know what was going on that night. He thinks that many of them probably live near where his brother overdosed. Now, he believes 32 more people are hurt by what happened to his brother.

“Privacy is important, but at the same time curiosity is…when something close to home happens you want to know,” said Robinson.

Alyssa Ducharme, the mother of Trevor Robinson’s infant son, had a different take but also did not believe the employees should lose their jobs.

“They shouldn’t have done what they did, but it still doesn’t bring Trevor back,” said Ducharme.

Kanihan said Allina Hospitals does have other nurses who are filling in, so they won’t have a staffing issue at either hospital.

A spokesperson for the nurses and hospital workers that were fired said they are not challenging this. The spokesperson added that they simply got caught up in the moment and are now paying the price.

More from John Lauritsen
  • L

    they should be ashamed of themselves

    • Vonnie

      Good, glad it happened.

      • Sad, really sad.

        HIPPA is political correctness, run amuck.

  • Diane

    I believe “innocent until proven guilty” in the case of one employee let go. Unity is losing a very good nurse because of this.

    • AllinaRN

      unfortunately, Unity is losing MANY good nurses as a result of this. Yes, they did wrong. Yes, they are paying heavily for their mistake. These are good people and good nurses that are suffering from the results of a moment of poor judgement.

    • Patti

      Electronic records leave a trail of who accessed what and when. Unless she gave out her user name and password, which is just as bad, she IS proven guilty! As a healthcare worker, I have to be very conscious of what I’m sharing when I go into someone’s record and if I have a right to be there. Shame on them for satisfying their curiosity. Everyone has a right to privacy!!

      • Kim

        I agree! They put that system in place for a reason! I am a healthcare worker also patients need to know that if a doctor or nurse is not involved in any way with their care they will not ever know why they are there at the hospital or any place else for that matter!!

      • Diane

        I agree to privacy, but also know people are human and make mistakes (leaving their computer on which I understand many people do). A dedicated employee who took their job seriously and with compassion was not given the chance to prove their innocence.

        • Kim

          i know its a hard lesson to learn, but its zero tolerence across the board.
          I do feel bad for her!

        • wootieup

          Diane – Just to clarify, when a nurse or medical professional is logged in, they are logged in under their own user name. Those employees were logged in as themselves and looking up those records. I work in the medical field and the people that monitor privacy are pretty forgiving and can clearly tell if a file was looked at on accident (less than 30 seconds, etc). However, they can track each user, which records they accessed and how long they were in those records. These employees took the risk and being fired is a very clearly laid out policy if you do something like that.

          • Diane

            Wootieup – I know this person and know they didn’t look at those records. This employee is as honest as they come. I believe that someone else used their log-in (when they walked away) and looked up those records (a snoopy co-worker). A warning for not logging off, but termination? Their supervisors should know what kind of employee they are.

            • nurse

              Your absolutley right Diane. Allina randomly pulled 32 names out of a bucket and said, “today is the day we fire these 32 employees”. NOT! These 32 former employees are not challenging the decision made by their employer. They are admitting they are guiltyl! In today’s world of “I’m gonna sue you”, no reputible employer would risk a law suit over this. They were wrong and they paid the price with their jobs.

              • Diane

                Not all 32 employees have signed the paperwork, so therefore I know of at least one who is challenging. I am no saying that medical personnel has a right to snoop, but I am trying to convey that an employee was fired and that person DID NOT go into those records. Oh yeah and by the way, she is just as much of a human as the rest of us – right we all are human and make mistakes?

                • Marvin

                  By logging into this computer, I agree to abide by the Allina Hospitals & Clinics Information Services policies for computer usage and the confidentiality provisions of Allina Hospitals & Clinics Employee Code of Conduct. Indicate your agreement by pressing ‘OK’ below.<— this is on every computer at Allina for over a decade

                • silly

                  Challenge away, how dare they look up other peoples health records, I don’t give a darn if they are curious. How about the individual who is challenging this, let’s all get to see his medical records, or the records of someone he loves. President Obama has kept his medical records private and every other American has that right too.

            • nurse

              Diane~AND if someone used your friend’s log in, that also violates institutional policy of accessing data records. A-they didn’t log off their computer or B-they shared their log in and password. Both violations of the medical centers policy.

            • wootieup

              Diane – if she was logged in as herself and somebody else did it under her, then she needs to contest it. If she is innocent, then she has a case. But they are pretty strict with all of this. Like others have said, none of the 32 were contesting…

        • LOL

          So you missed the part about 32 individuals were fired for the same reason?

    • Diane

      If a nurse is pulled away from their computer due to an EMERGENCY and leaves her computer on (slap their hands about that) and someone else uses that computer, shame on that snoop for betraying a fellow co-worker.

      • Patti

        It’s called ctr alt delete to lock that computer. Or, logoff takes 5 seconds literally. Sorry! Not buying it.

        • Saddened

          My understanding is that many people at Allina have, in the past, not logged off their computers because of various reasons (some due to the high pace of their jobs). Maybe a warning would have been more appropriate then termination. It is sad to see that an employer would not look at an employees work record and ethics first. This is bull.

          • wootieup

            Saddened, that is not how this works. Employees are not fired without good proof of privacy violation. It is easily tracked and you can tell the difference between an innocent mistake and somebody clearly being nosy. Trust me.

            • Kate

              The article states that none of the fired employees are challenging. They are admitting they violated the rules. Ethics includes not snooping in records you don’t have any business being in. This is a lapse of ethics.

              • Saddened

                Not challenging – YET!

              • youranangrynurselol

                OH WELL! your tought for security reasons to lock your computer and log off…EPIC FAIL TOO BAD!

          • AllinaRN

            I’m an ICU/ER nurse, so believe me, I understand how fast-paced the work can be… but really? It literally takes ONE CLICK to log off the computer. No excuses.

      • bob

        You’re assuming that isn’t investigated? The staff at the clinic I go to automatically lock the computer every time they go away from the station, even if they don’t leave the room. And it times out rather quickly if we are chatting and the person isn’t typeing.

    • ann

      If they did what was said, they should be fired. I need to be able to trust that my private records stay private.

    • nurse

      A “good” nurse would never access a patient’s medical record in the manner that these employees did.

  • Victim Du Jour

    I don’t get why the hospital didn’t make a system that password protects patient records for authorized staff only.

    Along with an emergency password that alerts management if someone uses the password.

    Leaving records open for everyone too see sounds fuzzy to me.

    • Med rec clerk

      They are password protected and they are not left open for everyone to see. That’s how they got caught. The system tracks who sees what and when. Amen for EPIC. Rest assured, your records are not just laying around on a desk anywhere…and people who do this, DO get caught. Obviously the system works.

      • Victim Du Jour

        You don’t understand my point – when a patient admits into a hospital, their record is assigned a password, it can be on their wrist tag and only the immediate nurses and doctors treating the patient is able to view the records.

        The rest of the hospital won’t be able to see the record unless they have the password on the arm band.

        What’s so hard about that?

        • just saying

          That doesn’t work because there are others who may or may not be directly involved in the care, who may need to access some of the electronic records. Without going into details, I am one such employee. My job includes auditing. I do not have to read the patient details, but I do have to have access to some of the electronic information.

          • Victim du jour

            IT departments have the ability to assign different user level passwords. Allowing different levels of access to people.

            You just like seeing people get fired.

            • Mike

              VDR-It’s called personal responsibility. I don’t work at a hospital, but I know about privacy law and it has a zero tolerance level because of liability and the simple fact, IT IS AGAINST THE LAW to share or access this information! Anyone who breaks this policy, did it deliberately with willful intent and does not belong working in this type of environment. The deserved to be fired!

            • old nurse

              And you don’t have a clue about working in a hospital and the workflow that entails

              • Mike

                Victim- If that ever became how the hospitals work and you were an inpatient you would have an awful experience and could very possibly die! I know privacy is important but this is a perfect example of how the rules and laws are enforced. Sucks to be the people getting fired but I like to know that if i’m admitted my information is staying private.

                • Victim Du Jour

                  The Law industry is driving up healthcare costs for their own pockets. Lawyers just sponging off People with meaningful careers.

        • Lisa

          It’s hard because there is a team of people at the hospital and sometimes outside the hospital who are treating the patient. When a person is hired to the hospital, it’s made very clear what is acceptable and what is not acceptable when opening medical charts. Legal documents are signed by the nurses (and other hospital workers) stating they will not break the law. These people broke federal laws.

  • MauerJoe

    Firing someone seems a little harsh. Why not a warning first? I would never want to work for Allina.

    • Patt

      Would you want your private medical records read by someone who has no business being in there? Would you want them to get off with a warning? How about if that person shared that information with a few dozen other co-workers as well. What if you were in there for an embarrassing problem to begin with? We are all taught this from day one in college and beyond in healthcare. No excuses. No chances.

    • wootieup

      They get plenty of warning when they become employees and everybody in the medical field needs to be trained for HIPAA which clearly states you can be fired for accessing records you should not be. I work in the medical field and it is laid out VERY clearly…but they were nosy and knew the risk they were taking when they went into those records.

    • Dawn

      They know from the day they are hired that is what will happen if they do it. All medical facilities are like this. And I’m glad, I don’t want my personal info shared with others without my knowledge.

    • Cathy

      What if you had just been diagnosed with an STD and a nurse who lives in your neighborhood looks up your info just because they work there and can? How would you feel then? Privacy laws protect all of us.

    • Med Rec clerk

      They were informed when they were hired, and every year thereafter about the zero tolerance for this type of behavior. Allina did exactly what they should have.

  • me

    this has nothing to do with privacy issues. allina is in a money crunch and this was a quick way to fire soem of the top paid nurses and doctors. there getting back @ mna union for the strike last year. bull ____

    • Saddened


    • Mary

      Allina isn’t the only facility that does this. HIPPA regulations make invasion of health record privacy a serious violation. If they didn’t want to get fired, they shouldn’t have done something they knew would get them fired. They are needing to responsibility for their actions.

    • youranangrynurselol

      lame response

    • Cathy

      Please dont be a moron

    • old nurse

      HIPPA is HIPPA. If you can prove they only fired senior people then there could be a case. I don’t doubt your accusation about Allina trying to get rid of a nurse with experience. There is a history there. If you can replace a 10-20 years of experience nurse with one with 2-4 years it saves them about 20000 for a full FTE.. This was only one patient though.

  • Jerry

    WOW!!! Reading these comments makes me believe that you all will stab your co-workers right in the back. What have we become??? Companies really don’t have your back anymore, doesn’t matter how you have performed in the past. It really is about the money. I’m sure the patients had no idea that office professionals looked at their files.

    • tom

      How would you feel if it was your records, how do you know what they’re going to do with the info? So if you don’t know your neighbor is spying on you or your wife through the window, it is no big deal? Snooping in your private business is spying on you. The rules are drilled into them. It isn’t like they didn’t know what would happen.

      • youranangrynurselol

        nurses and doctors are paid well and they feel ENTITLED to be able to nose into every one elses business…i work at a hospital and every employee is taught that YOU WILL BE FIRED for such actions…GOOD JOB ALLINA

    • Cathy

      Privacy rights rights of patients are talked about in detail and hospital employees are well informed of the rules and what will happen if they break them. THEY know at Allina it’s a zero tolerance policy

    • old nurse

      You haven’t heard the horror stories about how nurses can treat each other. It only takes a couple on a unit. Few companies seem to have your back anymore. Go to work everyday and try to be perfect is not easy. This one is a black and white issue. Many are not. If you do not belong in a chart, you do not look there. It is the law.

  • KT

    How do you know they were worried? If so, they could have read the news or talked to the families. They were snooping where they didn’t belong. How would you feel if you were in the hospital for something and a nosy person was reading your records? I don’t really want some random stranger knowing my private health information.

  • PC

    Fire the I.T. team that can’t put permission on specific patient records which are denied or accessable depending on the user signed into a computer at any specific time.

  • Law

    They should be fired. The law is the law. I am a health care worker also and we are trained in HIPPA and pt confidentiality from day 1. But as a former employee of Allina, just my opinion, you really don’t want to work for them !! The management and the politics are outrageous !!! I quit by the way.

  • Jahn Q. Citizen

    Ethics Are Not Optional
    It’s high time people with access to sensitive information are held accountable for violations. Healthcare privacy is sacred and workers who think it’s “no big deal” to look up patient records and chat about them deserve what they get. Administrators at Allina should take this as a wake up call to enforce tighter professional principals in every department.

  • Concerned RN

    I understand that what they did was wrong, but I would like to see WCCO highlight the great work that RN’s do rather than the exceptions that don’t. After all today is the beginning of Nurses Week. There are plenty of stories of great Nurses caring for their patients. Let’s focus on the positives! Happy Nurses Day!

    • Gerianne Imdieke

      I agree with you, concerned RN. Congratulations to all nurses during National Nurses Week and thank you for the awesome work you do, each and every day! Celebrate yourselves during National Nurses Week! Your employees don’t show enough appreciation for what you do, even during National Nurses Week. I receive awesome nursing care whenever I am a patient.

  • Jeffied

    Folks: These rules are set by the Federal Government. It’s called the (American) Health Insurance Portability and Accountablility Act (HIPAA). These rules were created in 1996 in order to PROTECT PATIENT PRIVACY. Imagine yourself being admitted into a hospital for care. You assume your info is safe and will only be shared by your providers (entities that are DIRECTLY involved in your care) and insurance carrier. But employees of that hospital that are NOT INVOLVED IN YOUR CARE are reading your test results, physician notes, and even demographic and insurance information. This is called a BREACH OF CONFIDENTIALITY. Most hospitals now have electronic medical record systems which keep track of everything that used to be in a paper chart. Anyone with an assigned log-in may look up any chart in the hospital. BUT, when one is hired by that hospital, one of the first pieces of paper they sign is a CONFIDENTIALITY STATEMENT–which is a legal document and WILL HOLD UP IN COURT. This statement states clearly and explicitly that the employee is ONLY ALLOWED to input data, view data, or even discuss data (privatly, of course) with ONLY other caregivers of the patient. Fines are steep for these hospitals if a breach is discovered by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS), Joint Commission on Accredation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), and even local health departments, etc… Some healthcare corporations even pass some or all of the fines to the employee. All employees are REQUIRED to log-out of their terminals when they step away from the computer. It takes seconds to log back in. Would you leave your ATM card in a cash machine for the next person to use? THESE RULES PROTECT YOU, THE PATIENT! Without them, your sensitive medical information would be available to anyone. It’s OK to feel sorry for the people that were fired. And, I think Allina would rather not have had this type of situation come up at all. It’s bad press. It’s horribly expensive to hire new employees and train them. And, yes, the people that were let go were excellent employees, and that hurt the most. This is an unfortunate reminder to all of us who work with patient electronic records everyday.

  • Suzette

    FYI I worked at Unity, HIPPI violations took place constantly! i.e.One clients wife would come in to visit on a daily bases. Rummer had it she became ill and may have been admitted to the Hospital. The HUC jumped on the computer and within a minute announced in a loud enough voice that everone at the nursing station not to mention the patients on the other side of the desk could clearly hear ” oh mrs so and so was admitted to this room with this diagnosis. I was so POed as we just had annual HIPPI violations and consequency with none compliance.. I reported the above to my nurse Manager. The nurse managers responce was oh well she’s kinda young.. The HUCs continued to surf through anyones information at will – something should have been done long ago. Keep in mind unless you turn out to be a high profile case – your personal business is not secure!!!!!

  • Lisa

    The Hospital could be fined for a LOT of money. The health care workers should be more concerned with their patients needs, instead of their own need to know. It is about the patient, who’s care is paying their salary. Bottom line.

  • Marc

    What they did was illegal according to the HIPAA law and leaves the hospital open to a law suite if they were not terminated.
    I have been in medicine for over 25yrs they know well what they did was totally illegal and equally important unethical.

  • Curiosity Killed the Cat

    So, I’m an RN at another Allina hospital and completely agree with the firing of these individuals. We are told from Day 1 of employment about the consequences of breaking HIPAA laws -most of us are WELL aware of the rules before even being hired. The people who did this knew what they were doing was wrong and they did it anyway, they deserved what they got.
    Funny how educated people can be so stupid.


    Maybe they were spies for al quida.

  • swayze

    This means nothing to me.

  • WOW!!!

    So why do so many employees have that much time on their hands to surf patient records? It should be the supervisors job to delegate down-time tasks, this may eliminate gossip, HIPPA violations, and slacking! Too much time on their hands and not good patient care happening!

  • Lisa

    At Allina we are taught for minute one that violating HIPAA will get you fired. Knowing this should make all medical professionals especially careful when using the computer system and logging off . I dont think that this is a way for Allina to get rid of emplyees because of a money crunch. Honestly, they are a big enough corporation that they will get rid of you if they want to… no need to use HIPAA as an excuse. I would say nearly 100% of all medical professional have takem a healthcare ethics course in college…. so this is NOT new information. Its more a case of complacency but thats not an excuse to allow this kind of behavior.

  • bummer

    HIPAA rule is health care workers are ONLY to use a patient’s medical record to perform their job!!!!! Minimal needed!! You don’t use a pt’s medical record to look at anything unless you need it to perform your job!!!! You should not even look up a pts address unless you need it to do your job!!!! They got caught and they know it.

  • They Knew They Were Wrong

    I think these last 2 sentances from the article say it all…….
    “A spokesperson for the nurses and hospital workers that were fired said they are not challenging this. The spokesperson added that they simply got caught up in the moment and are now paying the price.”

    Apparently these people that got fired feel they deserve it. I am sure that this is not the first time they have violated this law. Also fairly confident that there was plenty of documented evidence to justify such action. What wasn’t said was how many other people were suspended or had written warnings given to them in relation to this occurance.

  • Nurse

    Patient privacy is cut and dry. Privacy is criritical in establishing trust. Kudos to this institution for enforcing the zero tolerance policy when it comes to patient confidentiality. I wouldn’t hesitate to seek medical attention from this healthcare provider.

  • Marvin

    By logging into this computer, I agree to abide by the Allina Hospitals & Clinics Information Services policies for computer usage and the confidentiality provisions of Allina Hospitals & Clinics Employee Code of Conduct. Indicate your agreement by pressing ‘OK’ below. <— This is on every computer in Allina, you have to pass this to log in. It has been this way for over a decade.

  • Mr D

    Cops who look up information and run plates of friends and neighbors should be fired too.

blog comments powered by Disqus
Thursday Night Football

Listen Live