- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 7, 2014

NEW YORK (AP) - A top New York hospital has paid $4.8 million in what federal health regulators announced Wednesday was the largest settlement for a privacy breach since strict standards took effect in 2003.

The agreement with New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center resolved an inquiry that began in September 2010 after patient data wound up on the Internet, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said.

The department said Internet search engines were able to access the health records of about 6,800 hospital patients after a Columbia University Medical Center physician deactivated a server on the hospital’s internal data network.

The hospital did not become aware of the breach until it received a complaint from someone who found a deceased patient’s data online, the department said.

A hospital spokesman, Doug Levy, said Wednesday there was no indication at the time of the breach or since that any information was accessed or used inappropriately.

He said the hospital has worked to strengthen patient privacy and is taking additional corrective action - including risk analysis, developing a risk management plan, revising policies and procedures and training staff - as required under the settlement agreement.

The hospital also is required to provide progress reports.

Levy said the hospital, which was No. 1 in New York in the latest U.S. News and World Report rankings, is committed to handling patients’ personal and medical data with the “greatest respect and integrity.”

New York-Presbyterian and Columbia University operate the Columbia University Medical Center under a joint arrangement. New York-Presbyterian covered $3.3 million of the settlement. Columbia, whose faculty members serve as attending physicians, paid $1.5 million.

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