[ Monday, February 21, 2011 ]


Guest Post: Occasionally other bloggers ask if they can cross-post on the HIPAA Blog. The following guest contribution was submitted by Jamie Davis, who specializes in writing about masters degrees. Questions and comments can be sent to: davis.jamie17@gmail.com.

Odd HIPAA News: Privacy for Pets?

Those well-versed in HIPAA should find the following story pretty amusing (don't worry it turns out okay). The Washington Post recently reported on an incident involving a woman and a dog and the dog's vet refusing to release the dog's health records.

The Post tells the story of a woman, Lynn Westrope, who was out delivering papers when a dog on a leash nipped her on the thigh despite the dog-walker's efforts to prevent it. Westrope was okay, just a minor wound, but she did want to check on the dog's rabies history, so the dog-walker gave her the vet's phone number.

Here is where it gets interesting. Upon calling the vet, Westrope was informed that the vet could not release the dog's medical information without the consent of the owner, who was, unfortunately, away on
vacation and couldn't be reached.

She was stunned. Westrope told the post, "He said, 'I'm sorry. I legally cannot give you the information without the express permission of the owner.'"

Ashley Hughes, a vet from the animal hospital, was also quoted, saying, "It's somewhat like a person's medical records, in that they have to be released by the owner of the dog. So if the dog's owner had called us or called to say it was okay to give this woman the information, it wouldn't have been a problem."

But when asked if it was a legal requirement, Hughes said, it wasn't. It was just "common practice."

So, for those of you who must deal with HIPAA on a daily basis, imagine the further complications you would have to wade through if suddenly this became a constant issue! Or, try this: imagine if the entire privacy issue regarding everyone's health records was just managed via 'common sense'!

Of course, Westrope's comment might say it best. When asked what she thought about the whole situation, she told The Post, "It’s pretty absurd."

But everything worked out in the end for Westrope: the dog was rabies free.

Jeff [9:07 AM]

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