Pharmacist Shares Screenshot of a Patient’s Prescription, Which Results in Termination

Pharmacy TimesApril 2024
Volume 90
Issue 4

The pharmacist shared the image with his spouse, who is also a pharmacist

Facts of the Case

The pharmacist who initiated this lawsuit was employed by a national pharmacy chain as a “floater pharmacist.” In that role, he was assigned to various locations based on need. If the assignment involved travel to sites other than the usual one, the pharmacist would be compensated for travel time and those trips might also be eligible for reimbursement based on mileage traveled.

law concept Judge law medical Pharmacy compliance Health care business rules. - Image credit: onephoto |

Image credit: onephoto |

One month after he initiated his employment with this company, the pharmacist learned about the compensation for travel time, so he began to attempt to submit reimbursement requests through an online system. However, his attempted submissions resulted in error messages or rejection of claims. He continued to encounter such challenges for a year, despite several discussions with supervisors.

Several months after this continuing give-and-take with chain officials, another issue arose. The pharmacist took a screenshot of a prescription he had dispensed and printed it out. He took that sheet of paper home without redacting any of the patient’s protected health information (PHI) and shared it with his wife, who is also a pharmacist. He said he did so for 2 reasons: (1) to see whether she would verify that the medication he had dispensed was indeed the proper one and (2) for a training discussion with her because the prescriber’s handwriting was difficult to read.

The following day, he called the manager of the pharmacy where the prescription had been dispensed, mentioning that he had taken the prescription home to show his wife. The pharmacy manager notified the district manager that this had occurred, and the district manager was informed by an appropriate administrative official at the corporate level that this was a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and that “sharing or unauthorized use of PHI was a terminable offense.”

The pharmacist was subsequently terminated, and he filed a lawsuit against the chain claiming that he had been terminated for engaging in “protected activity” when he was questioning his continuing challenges with travel reimbursement. The chain made a motion for summary judgment, seeking to have the matter concluded without the necessity of a trial. The court granted the employer’s motion for summary judgment.

The Court’s Reasoning

At the outset, the court emphasized that summary judgment is appropriate in cases when the submitted documents show there is “no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the [party making the motion] is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” The burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact lies with the party initiating the motion to the court.

To prevail, the plaintiff (in this case the pharmacist) must establish “by a preponderance of the evidence, that retaliation for his protected activities was a contributing factor in contested employment action.” If that occurs, then “the burden shifts to the employer to demonstrate, by clear and convincing evidence, that it would have taken the adverse action for legitimate independent reasons even had the plaintiff not engaged in protected activity.”

The court concluded that the plaintiff had not proven he reasonably believed that he was reporting a violation of law or regulation at the time he spoke with the district manager about reimbursement for travel. The plaintiff admitted he made a mistake when he took the patient’s PHI out of the pharmacy, and he stated he should have redacted the patient’s name and other identifying information. Nevertheless, the employer prevailed and termination action was approved.

Related Videos
Concept of health care, pharmaceutical business, drug prices, pharmacy, medicine and economics | Image Credit: Oleg -
Image credit: |
Medical team -- Image credit: Flamingo Images |
Semaglutide Ozempic injection control blood sugar levels | Image Credit: myskin -
© 2024 MJH Life Sciences

All rights reserved.