[ Tuesday, July 03, 2007 ]


Still All in the Balance: Apparently, providers are still being extra-cautious about giving out information due to concerns about HIPAA restrictions and possible penalties. Most recently we heard that providers weren't serious enough about HIPAA compliance; now we're hearing they're too cautious. I've said it before, there must be a balance between disclosure and privacy. If you demand privacy, you're going to get overzealous protections that limit disclosure.

UPDATE: Sheesh, HIPAA sure does continue to confuse. This article is pretty inaccurate. It says a covered entity can share information with friends and family, unless the patient objects. That's flippant and inaccurate: a covered entity MAY disclose to a family member, relative or friend, but only information that's relevant to that family member's/friend's involvement in the care of the patient (which may be "not at all") or to help identify or locate the patient, and only if either (if the patient is present) the patient agrees/does not object/acts in such a way that the doctor can reasonably infer that the patient doesn't object, or (if the patient isn't present or is incapacitated) the physician or nurse, in their best professional judgment, determines that it would be in the patient's best interest to disclose the information.

Let's take an extreme example, but just the kind of anecdote that is used to push in the opposite direction. A woman in the first trimester of pregnancy is involved in a car crash and is in a coma. A couple of days later her husband, who has been out of town, arrives at the hospital. The nurse says she's stable but in a coma, suffered internal injuries, but the fetus seems to be fine. The husband says, "Fetus? I've been in Iraq for the last 6 months and just got stateside today." But, hey, no problem with that disclosure, right? Since the patient didn't object?

Jeff [11:03 AM]

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