Senator challenges Walgreens on alleged HIPAA violations

October 22, 2013

Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) is asking for answers to questions raised in a newly published report.

 

On the heels of a report alleging that Walgreens’ new Wellness pharmacy design is putting sensitive patient information at risk, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) has asked the drug chain to respond to issues of patient privacy, data security, and patient safety raised in the report.

Repeated violations

In a recently published study, the labor union-funded Change to Win Retail Initiatives (CWRI) claims that its investigators found repeated violations of the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) during 100 visits to 50 Walgreens pharmacies in Illinois, Indiana, and Florida during June, July, and August 2013.

The reports alleges that medical histories were left unattended and visible to customers in 80% of stores investigators visited, and that at nearly half the stores, prescriptions were left unattended and within the reach of customers. The group filed a complaint with HHS.  

Markey sent a letter to Walgreens asking it to address the concerns mentioned in the CWRI report.

Walgreens’ response

“We intend to fully respond to Sen. Markey’s letter, and we appreciate the support he expressed for making pharmacists more accessible for counseling and other healthcare services,” said Michael Polzin, a Walgreens spokesperson. “We’ve received extremely positive and encouraging feedback from our patients and the pharmacy industry about this format, and we are proud of the work we’ve done to transform community pharmacy.” 

 In his letter, Markey said that patient privacy and drug security must remain a priority for Walgreens.

“I understand and support the goal of making pharmacists more accessible to patients for counseling and other services. However, I remain concerned that placing the pharmacist’s workstation in a public area may result in violations of patients’ health privacy rights,” he wrote.