Former UCLA researcher sentenced to prison for violating HIPAA privacy rule

Huping Zhou, a licensed cardiothoracic surgeon in China, and a former UCLA School of Medicine researcher, becomes one of the first healthcare workers sentenced to prison for violating the HIPAA privacy rule.

Working as a researcher at the university in 2003 Mr. Zhou began accessing the medical records of his superior, his co-workers and celebrity patients in the UCLA Health System, including Tom Hanks, Drew Barrymore and Arnold Schwarzenegger. FBI reports that he accessed confidential medical records in violation of the HIPAA privacy rule a total of 323 times over a 3-week period.

Zhou has been sentenced to 4 months in federal prison, plus a fine of $2,000. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles said in a press release that this is the first time a healthcare worker has been given jail time for violating the HIPAA privacy rule.

Edward Robinson, attorney for Mr. Zhou, told CBS News his client had “no idea that looking at another person’s medical records was a federal criminal violation for which you could go to jail.”