[ Tuesday, September 06, 2005 ]
Interesting HIPAA issue:
in this case
in Illinois, the plaintiff sued the hospital on the grounds that the hospital did not see the plaintiff in the emergency room quickly enough to save her. In order to prove their case, the plaintiffs asked the hospital to release the time the patient checked into the ER, the time of treatment, and the "acuity" score for the patient. The plaintiffs wanted the information to show that other patients were seen more quickly than the deceased, and that it wasn't because the other patients were in a more urgent situation.
The hospital resisted disclosing the information on the grounds that the information was protected by the patient-physician privilege, and secondarily on the grounds that the court's order to disclose the information did not comply with HIPAA requirements. The court found that the specific information requested was not protected under the physician-patient privilege; even the acuity scoring was not specific enough to the patient's exact condition as to be protected by the privilege. However, the court determined that the time and acuity information are
likely PHI under most interpretations of the definition, and the release of the PHI on persons who aren't a part of the suit might violate the privacy rights of those non-party patients. Even so, the court determined that the information sought had no identifying information, and without more information than check-in time, treatment time, and acuity score, it would be impossible to identify the individuals who were the subjects of the PHI. In other words, it's not IIHI, cause it's not individually identifiable, so it's not PHI.
The court also noted that the hospital's assumption in its defense, that a qualified protective order would have to be included with the lower court's discovery order, is incorrect. QPOs are required if the information is requested as part of a subpoena; they aren't required if the court actually orders the disclosure. If the court orders it, the Privacy Rule allows it; presumably, HHS thinks courts will be appropriately protective of PHI.
Jeff [5:19 PM]
Blogger: HIPAA Blog - Edit your Template