Three and a half months ago, in June 2015 I filed a complaint against Virginia State Senate Candidate Siobhan Dunnavant for what I believe was a violation of patient privacy laws. It seems the good doctor used her patient database to send a letter advising her patients of her candidacy for the Va Senate and what they could expect should she win, and during the campaign.
I am no expert, but had she stopped there, I believe no laws would have been broken. But the letter I received that came from one of her patients went much further. In June I wrote:
During the recent Republican Primary campaign for the Republican nomination for State Senator in the 12th Senatorial District, some disturbing actions were taken by one of the contenders, Dr. Siobhan Stolle Dunnavant.
I received a letter sent by Dunnavant’s campaign to her patient list. The letter explained what her patients could expect as far as medical services should she win the primary and the general election. And that much, in my opinion, was both proper and professional.
However, the letter goes on to solicit campaign volunteers and yard sign placement in her patients yards, which is not medical at all. And the kicker for me and numerous health care professionals I have spoken with was that the letter was paid for and sent by Dr. Dunnavant’s campaign.
The numerous health care professionals I spoke with all said that this is a HIPAA violation. Name and address are personal identifiers and the campaign letter was addressed to her patient list.
So I felt it my duty to file a complaint as I believe this letter crossed the line of what is allowed.
As I said, I am no expert. But today I received a letter from the Department of Health and Human Services Regional Manager Barbara Holland stating:
“We have carefully reviewed your allegation and are initiating an investigation to determine if there has been a failure to comply with the requirements of the applicable regulation.”
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is the investigating body.
They are investigation whether or not Dunnavant has violated the Federal Standards for Privacy of Individually Identifiable Health Information. Specifically, my allegations are that she provided information to her campaign for the purpose of soliciting contributions, volunteers and votes. I should note that the letter to Dr. Dunnavant’s patients stated that it was paid for by her Campaign.
It was specifically my intent to get this matter cleared early, but the wheels of justice turn slowly. But it is my intent to hold politicians and candidates to a high standard. And I believe Siobhan Dunnavant did not measure up to these standards by using her patient database for political purposes.
Article written by: Tom White