This morning’s Wasington Post reports that although there have been 19,420 HIPAA privacy grievances lodged so far, no fines have been issued, some 302 cases have been referred to the US Attorney’s offices for prosecution, and only 2 criminal charges have actually been lodged the most common allegations have been that personal medical details were wrongly revealed, information was poorly protected, more details were disclosed than necessary, proper authorization was not obtained or patients were frustrated getting their own records.
One attorney told me that she has dealt with a number of complaints for clients, often from plaintiff’s lawyers looking for more information and trying to jam up the client in anticipation of a lawsuit. The article discusses several
high profile violations, such as one person who went to sell the medical records of an FBI agent. But cases like that are outliers – truly criminal acts of an individual. The radiology group that dumped records into an open disposal bin is, I would suggest, the more common example of stupidity that do threaten our privacy. I would believe that many of the complaints are either minor, or junk related to a possible lawsuit.
So, while the Post found some people to be very concerned, maybe there is less to be concerned about. That said, if the public is worried – and there is evidence to suggest that is the case – we all have to be worried. If patients aren’t forthcoming about their history and problems, it’s hard to help a patient. I just went through the process of applying for a replacement life insurance policy, and the way some of my statements were interpreted caused all kinds of aggravation. One carrier penalized me in the rate setting because I had mentioned that I lost over 10 pounds in the past year – lost through better eating and exercise!!
The takeaway – continue to train and retrain staff. Keep records secure and out of sight from all public areas. Watch hallway conversations. Shred rather than throw out. And, if you keep the objective of the privacy rules in mind, and your patient’s needs in mind. That usually takes care of most questions and possible objections.