[ Tuesday, July 10, 2007 ]


Good Samaritan shut out by HIPAA: Here's a funny story (ok, not ha-ha funny) about what can happen when HIPAA is enforced according to its actual requirements. A woman gave CPR to a man who had been hit by a truck, and got his blood on her. The guy died, but they didn't do blood work on him because alcohol and/or drugs weren't a factor. So she didn't know if she had been exposed to blood-borne pathogens like HIV or hepatitis. The EMR staff took her to the hospital and she tested negative, but some things don't show up for months, so she'll need to be re-tested. And, her insurance only paid part of the bill, so she's stuck with several thousands in medical bills for those tests. Having access to the dead guy's records would help, since it would show whether he had HIV or hepatitis the last time he got tested, but that could be some time ago. And anyway, she wasn't able to get his records, because of HIPAA.

The story is a little fishy. First, that's just what the trooper told her; there is an exception for disclosures necessary to prevent or lessen a threat to the health and safety of a person or the general public, so long as the disclosure is to a person who could help prevent or lessen the threat. Releasing the records to the good samaritan would fit both those requirements. Secondly, the guy's family is on her side; the executor or representative of his estate could authorize the release to her.

Jeff [10:46 AM]

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