[ Tuesday, May 30, 2006 ]
Texas Medical Records Case:
It's not really a HIPAA case, but rather a physician-patient privilege case. Med-mal plaintiff Boren wanted to look at the operative reports and discharge records from a Tenet hospital on all patients (non-parties to the lawsuit, naturally) who had received a particular procedure at the hospital. Since that would obviously not be granted, Boren asked for the information, with all patient identifying information removed. The hospital could, under HIPAA, release that information since it would no longer be PHI if it was truly de-identified.
The Tenet hospital objected to the request, claiming that the information was still subject to the physician-paitent confidentiality privilege, even if de-identified. The trial judge overruled that objection, and ordered the information disclosed. Tenet appealed, and sought a writ of mandamus requiring the trial judge to rescind his discovery order. In a decision under the name "In re Tenet Healthcare Ltd.", Tex. Ct. App., No. 12-05-00310-CV, 3/31/06, the appeals court granted the writ of mandamus and overturned the trial court's ruling. Said the appeals court: "The redaction of identifying information does not address the concerns regarding portions of nonparty medical records relating to diagnosis, evaluation, or treatment. . . . Therefore, redaction of identifying information from nonparty medical records does not defeat the medical records privilege. . . . Consequently, the records Boren seeks are privileged in their entirety."
This case serves as a reminder that even though a disclosure might be allowed under HIPAA, you should still consider whether there's a more stringent state law that requires continued confidentiality.
Jeff [11:38 AM]
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