California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed legislation that gives a state office the right to fine hospitals that do not adequately protect patient privacy.
One bill approved by the governor creates an office to oversee the privacy of patient records, while the other specifies the potential for issuing fines up to $250,000.
"Repeated violations of patient confidentiality are potentially harmful to Californians, which is why financial penalties are needed to ensure employees and facilities do not breach confidential medical information," Schwarzenegger said, according to the LA Times.
Dave Jones, who authored one of the bills, said that "private medical information shouldn’t be flapping in the breeze like an open hospital gown."
The legislation also increases the amount that hospitals may be fined for medical mistakes that imply other patients may also be harmed.
Earlier this year, an employee at UCLA Medical Center was discovered to have breached security rules by accessing dozens of patient records without permission, including those of Schwarzenegger’s wife, Maria Shriver.