[ Thursday, April 01, 2004 ]
Taking HIPAA to the extreme:
What's the worst thing that can happen under HIPAA? The law gets misconstrued by an overzealous hospital administrator and family members can't get information on loved ones, leaving panic, worry, and anxiety in their wake. That's what happened here.
It will be interesting to see if this guy's crusade leads anywhere. It was kind of funny when it happened to the head of the Georgetown group who pushed so hard for HIPAA and was so virtiolic about the "abuses" of medical information in the medical community, but it's not when it happens to those who deserve to be treated better.
Ultimately, a hospital has the right to disclose PHI to family members if it reasonably determines that they are involved in the care of the individual. Of course, if you make that determination and give PHI to an abusive family member, or if the patient really doesn't want the family members to know, you can find yourself on the receiving end of an OCR call. Hospitals could do a better job with sign-in and registration to make sure they find out if they can talk to family members (or, better yet, if there are some family members that need to be left out of the loop). But most of the problems come from the fact that the threat for violations is too damn harsh and it scares folks away from just doing the reasonable thing.
Jeff [11:40 PM]
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