Imagine this: you are in a vulnerable moment, perhaps worried about your health or the health of a loved one. Your only concern is that you or your loved one is safe and not in pain. A kindly stranger is taking very good care of you. You are paying for the service and willingly hand over your financial information as payment, focused the whole time on your priority: health. Several months later you discover your identity has been compromised. Was it that purchase you made in Target? Michael's craft store? It may have been your trip to the doctor, or the health care facility.
Earlier this week, NRAD Medical Associates of Garden City, New York wrote to some 100,000 patients to inform them that a former employee, a radiologist, had inappropriately "accessed and acquired protected health information from NRAD's billing systems without authorization." According to the letter, the breach actually occurred on April 24th, and included "some personal information, including patient names and addresses, social security numbers and health insurance, diagnosis codes and procedure codes."
The employee involved was fired, and, the letter continues, "enhanced security measures" were implemented and the "authorities were notified." According to NRAD, there are no indications that the information obtained was used. The larger problem remains, however: when personal information is entrusted to the care of a professional, it should be safe.
As the HamletHub has previously reported, professional licensing in New York State should protect us from criminal behavior, but it often doesn't. A recent inquiry to the Office of Professional Licensing elicited this statistic: 1,550 licenses were referred to OPD for investigation last year, 20 were sent to hearing and 9 were "deemed to lack the requisite moral character to be licensed at this time." Put another way,out of the thousands of licenses issued yearly to professionals in New York State, a scant 1.3% were sent to hearing after investigation and only .6% were denied at hearing.
It should be noted that statistics on the precise number of license applications reviewed and issued in NYS were not available, but there are a total of some 800,000 professionals licensed in NYS, and another approximately 20,000 nursing licenses alone will be issued this year. The annual budget for OPD is approximately $55 million: that is $6 million dollars for each denied license, according to OPD statistics. The more important question is perhaps how many license candidates with criminal records are slipping through the cracks?
We reached out to the OPD for comment but as of this writing have not received a reply.