Psychiatrist Richard Alan Kaye quite possibly first psychiatrist to be criminally charged for violating patient privacy

July 20, 2011

On or about June 30, 2011, psychiatrist Richard Alan Kaye, of Virginia, was indicted in U.S. District Court on charges that he disclosed a patient’s person medical information.

Kaye, the former medical director of the psychiatric unit at Sentara Obici Hospital, treated a patient at Obici for two weeks in 2007. 

The indictment states that in 2008, he released personal health information about the patient on three different occasions to an “agent” of the patient’s employer without authorization.

The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia said Kaye disclosed the information under false pretenses, saying that she (the patient) was of “serious and imminent threat to the safety of the public.” However, the indictment states that Kaye knew the patient was not a threat to the safety of the public.

The alleged violation involves the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Criminal prosecutions for HIPAA violations have been rare and usually involve situations where “false pretenses” are used.

The Virginia Medical Board investigated the same incident and ultimately reprimanded Kaye and fined him $5,000.

According to the Board’s documents, the patient whom Kaye had treated in 2007 was admitted to another facility January 30, 2008 and Kaye talked to two of the patient’s co-workers about his 2007 treatment of the patient and his opinion of her current mental state; Kaye did not know her current state as he had not treated her since September 2007 and did not have authorization from the patient to share the information.

“Despite direct and repeated questioning," states the Board’s Order, "Dr. Kaye could not fully articulate or justify his course of action in violating the patient’s privacy other than alleged concerns for public safety based on her access to a weapon.  Dr. Kaye could cite no specific threats of harm that the patient had to herself or other, yet he claimed he was afraid for his safety and that of his family.”

Order in re: Richard Alan Kaye, D.O., License NO. 0102-037142, Befor the Virginia Board of Medicine and "Suffolk doctor facres federal privacy law charges,", June 2011.


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