How private are medical records?

  1. 0
    Hello,
    I have a question regarding nursing ethics and the opinion of experienced nurses would mean a lot to me! I am a student preparing to start my RN program in the fall but my question is regarding a good friend of mine who is currently a nurse in the same building as the family physician that both my husband and I see. We have been seeing our doctor much longer than her employment. Anyhow, I am wondering if she has access to our medical files, she would have no reason to because she works in an entirely different department, one day when we were talking, she refered to my doctor by name but I don't recall ever having shared that with her. She is a good friend but I didn't want to come right out and ask if she had looked. The facility is a branch off of a large hospital, in that kind of facility (Probably 50-60 of all practices) would nurses have access to different departments and medical charts of patients that are not cared for by the doctor they work for? I hope this question makes sense, any insight would be greatly appreciated. I thought about calling the doctors office and just asking, still may do that in the future.
  2. 9 Comments so far...

  3. 2
    Yes, within a hospital system (which might include multiple physician practices and ancillary services), a nurse could likely have access to any patient in the system. But it would be an extremely serious HIPAA violation for anyone to access your chart who is not directly involved in your care. Most nurses are very cognizant of the usual penalty of immediate termination for a HIPAA violation.

    There must be more to your suspicions than just that she mentioned your doctor's name?
    DizzyLizzyNurse and tvccrn like this.
  4. 0
    Im not a nurse but I have worked in a clinic connected to a really big hospital. It also has many schools connect with it outside of the 2 hospitals and 4 different buildings for clinic and their own surgery building. But anyway it really just depends on the system that they use to keep medical records. The hospital had one system and all the clinics used another system but anyone who had access to the system could look up anyone no matter where the patient was being seen. The system we used keep records of every chart you logged into and how long you were in the chart and what you looked at. Since she only mentioned your doctor's name I would wait until you have something a little more concrete then file a complaint.
  5. 0
    You say she's a good friend of yours. If she's been looking at your records, what do you want to happen to her? Filing a complaint, if it's substantiated, will mean some pretty big consequences for her.

    How about just asking her if she looked at your records and if she did or if you think she did by what her body language says, in spite of words, tell her you don't appreciate she did that and will be glad if she doesn't do it again. Tell her it makes you uncomfortable. Tell her whatever you think and feel. Why dance around this with a good friend?

    She might not have looked at your actual records. Sometimes things show up on computers that are just lists of who's coming to see who, on a particular day. She might have seen something like that.
  6. 6
    Is it not possible that at some time, in some conversation, you mentioned the name of your and/or your hubby's MD to your "good friend"?
    noahsmama, roser13, DizzyLizzyNurse, and 3 others like this.
  7. 0
    OR you could ask the hospital to see who has accessed your chart and when (all this electronic business leaves a different kind of fingerprint). Most hospitals have a security department for this and all concerns could be brought up. I have known nurses who have cared for patients with the same last name (no relationship) called in by management to ask why they were looking in that chart. The nurse has to respond accordingly and often it was just because it was MY patient and I needed too. I have known of people fired for looking in charts of famous people as well as ex-s. Unfortunately your so called friend would be in trouble for a HIPPAA violation but if they had no business being in your chart then they really are not a friend to begin with.
  8. 0
    I was told when I got hired at my new job that when I sign on it leaves a record of every chart I look at and what exactly I look at. So if I sign onto a friend's chart to poke around I am probably going to get fired. So not even worth it lol. Once you go through school and experience how much work it is to even graduate and then to even pass your boards....you probably won't want to risk your job/license/reputation to peek at someone's charts.

    When I was in school doing rotations at a cancer hospital, one of the patients I was assigned to was a friend of my mom's. She let me be her student nurse anyway and told me I could tell my mom if I wanted to. Well I knew I wasn't allowed to do that and she was surprised when she mentioned it to my mom months later and she didn't know anything about it.

    I'm confused about your friend mentioning the doctor? Did she know that was your doctor and what you see him/her for? Does she know that you have a certain problem and that's what this doc specializes in so she assumed that was your doctor? Or does she know this is your doctor and you are just worried she'll check out your charts? Either way I doubt you have anything to worry about.
  9. 0
    No, I was never thinking of filing a complaint or trying to damage her career. I am more just curious to know if she could if she wanted to. And it sounds like yes, she can, but everyone has given good explanations why it would be a needless risk on her part.
  10. 0
    Quote from DizzyLizzyNurse
    When I was in school doing rotations at a cancer hospital, one of the patients I was assigned to was a friend of my mom's. She let me be her student nurse anyway and told me I could tell my mom if I wanted to. Well I knew I wasn't allowed to do that and she was surprised when she mentioned it to my mom months later and she didn't know anything about it.
    You're allowed to tell as long as you have the patient's permission. In this case, you had her permission, so you could have told your mom she was your patient.
  11. 0
    Quote from noahsmama
    You're allowed to tell as long as you have the patient's permission. In this case, you had her permission, so you could have told your mom she was your patient.
    My teacher told me better to be safe than sorry and I agreed. Also what if she changed her mind or thought I said too much? It would be my word against her's and who do you think would be the one blamed?


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