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Lawsuit: Accretive Health Inc. Broke Patient Privacy Laws

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CBS Minnesota (con't)

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson is suing Accretive Health Incorporation, a debt collection agency. It stems from an incident last year when someone stole a laptop with medical information for more than 23,000 North Memorial and Fairview patients.

Swanson said Accretive Health Incorporated violated patients’ privacy and also played a role in patients’ health care, which patients did not know.

“My data might very well be on that laptop,” said Kathleen Quinn, who filed complaint with the attorney general after she said Accretive Health Incorporated harassed her over her Fairview hospital bill. “It was not on the letters that they sent to me saying we are collecting for a debt.”

Under consumer protection laws, companies have to tell you they are attempting to collect a debt.

“They are a debt collector and they are not disclosing that,” said Swanson.

One of the letters Quinn got from the company said they couldn’t reach her. She said she got this reaction when she called the company back.

“They put me on hold and then they hung up on me,” said Quinn.

Swanson said Accretive Health had medical information about patients on the laptop that was stolen last July: Everything from a patient’s social security number, to 22 different chronic medical conditions, from HIV to seizure disorders. This didn’t sit too well with Quinn.

“It’s none of your business. First of all, as a debt collection agency, they are not entitled to my medical records,” said Quinn.

Also, the information was not encrypted, so anyone could get it.

“No one has notified me that there is a possibility that my information is on there,” said Quinn.

Swanson also says Accretive Health used the information to score patients — something like a credit rating to see if patients were more likely to be hospitalized.

North Memorial has yet to comment, but Fairview gave WCCO-TV a statement, saying, “We are re-doubling our efforts to safeguard our patients’ health information.”

Sonya Goins, Producer
Contact Sonya

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