I'm Being Disciplined for Looking Up My Own Labs

  1. Two months ago, I went to the ER (I work in another unit at the same facility) with status migranosus for IV hydration and treatment. Two days later, I went back to the ER with a red streak running from my IV site up my biceps. Thrombophlebitis with possible MRSA infection, the attending said. Got IV/PO Clinda and had blood cultures drawn, with instructions not to return to work for 48 hours.

    Once back at work, I looked up my labs for the final BC report (thought it might be a good idea to make certain I wasn't infected before handling babies). Since my PMD does not have admitting priviledges at my hospital, it could be several days before her office received the results by mail and who knows how long before her office called me. So, I looked it up myself, and was reassured by the negative result.

    Today, I was notified that I am being disciplined for 'Violation of Confidential Medical Information'- aka a HIPAA violation. I have, apparently, VIOLATED MY OWN PRIVACY by looking up my own labs. What the ???

    For the next three months, every sign-on with my password will be reviewed to make sure I am only accessing information for patients I am directly caring for. If I am in found to be violation of these terms (which I certainly am not going to do), I will be terminated.

    Now, I wasn't snooping around to find out a coworker's Hep status, or prying into the file of a VIP patient on another unit- I was looking up my own information, for Pete's sake! "The organization takes privacy very seriously and views looking up your own information as serious a violation as if you had looked up someone else's medical information," I was told.

    I know plenty of other RNs I work with who have looked up their own information. Or their kid's radiology reports. Or their husband's labs. I seem to be the only one, though, being disciplined. And to be put in the same penalty box as those who have snooped into the files of other patients or coworkers makes me upset. I think my hospital is taking HIPAA to a huge extreme here.

    Anyone else here been taken to the woodshed for 'violating their own privacy'?
    Sheesh.
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  2. 52 Comments

  3. by   BittyBabyGrower
    As stupid as it is, where I work, they will and can actually fire you for this offense. I have no idea how MY labs can be a violation of HIPPA, we have a center wide rule that you are not to access any labs but your patients. It isn't like we are looking at our co workers labs and saying, oh say, so and so has this.
  4. by   TiffyRN
    I've never been taken to task; but I've always been warned that we are not to access any medical information that is not on a patient we are caring for at that time.

    That was before HIPAA was even law.

    I'll plead that 5th on whether or not I'm always been compliant.

    I know our patients are allowed to review their medical records; but only after they have signed specific release papers. Seems the same regs should apply to hospital employees as patients.
  5. by   TazziRN
    This is the standard at all facilities. You cannot access your own stuff without going through your doc or med rec. You cannot access your minor child's. Seems silly, yes, but them's the rules and you broked it. The way I get around it is to call the lab and ask one of the phlebos to print it out for me or look up the labs and just tell me if there are any abnorms.
  6. by   Marie_LPN, RN
    I've never been taken to task; but I've always been warned that we are not to access any medical information that is not on a patient we are caring for at that time.
    Same here, and most people know this.
  7. by   NRSKarenRN
    It's in bold print on HIPPA orientation form signed off my all new staff.

    Almost had problem myself as I took info from PCP and entered parents homecare referral when admitted to my agency and later verified insurance. Had to remind myself not to use their profile for teaching new staff referral entry of established patient so won't be in violation/accessed of accessing info despite being POA....fine line we tread.
  8. by   Marie_LPN, RN
    My other thought is that if there was a question that a positive test result would indicate that a person shouldn't be working around babies, then it makes no sense that the instructions to not return to work were only for 48 hours. It should have been until test results were in, and the time it took for the results to be back shouldn't have been so casual, if the results could have an effect on other people.

    Also, here's another angle: using work time to look up personal information.
    Last edit by Marie_LPN, RN on Dec 20, '06
  9. by   GardenDove
    i had atypical pneumonia summer before last. i was very sick and had gone to the hospital run clinic. i ended up being disastisfied with the doctor's attititude, she really brushed off my panic about this whole thing, she always viewed me as a really healthy, fit person, and i got the feeling that she wasn't taking my fears seriously. i had been told that i needed a followup chst x ray in 6 weeks, after everything had cleared, to see if everything was okay. i wasn't given any explanation at all. i was on the verge of hospitaliztion, but responded to po levaquin, with many side effects.

    anyways, once i got back to work, out of curiousity i checked my x-ray report. well, my pneumonia was in the pleura of my left lung, was deemed atypical, with a suspicious looking spot that suggested possible carcinoma. since before nrsg i had worked in a cabinet shop and had done some finishing, plus had been exposed to some other possible chemicals, i really freaked, since i'm from all appearances and healthy fit person.

    so, i waited the 6 weeks, then went as soon as i could. i told the clinic that i wanted the results asap. they didn't get back to me that day, so i again looked it up on the computer, it was clear. i was jubalent. the (profanity deleted) clinic didn't get the report to me for 8 days. i was po'd and ended up filing a care and service report complaining. our qa gal told me that we actually aren't supposed to look up our own labs! i was shocked. however, there was no hint from her of anything but sympathy.

    i changed docs, even though i had enjoyed working with this doc, i didn't like her as my doc, she didn't seem very worried about me and seemed to take my good health for granted. i might add here that i'm generally don't go to the doctor often, so i'm no hypocondriac or whiney pt. i also want to say that this doctor was known to cater to needy, drug seeking pts, and actually ended up get let go of by the clinic for prescribing too many narcotics and catering to drugseekers.

    anyways, where i work, it's officially not allowed but it's tolerated and everyone does it.
  10. by   ParrotHeadRN
    Interestingly enough, I worked for a LARGE organization that went just the opposite way. We were to have no access to any files other than our patients', EXCEPT OUR OWN AND OUR MINOR CHILDRENS'. They very specifically said it many times during our orientation, we even had to repeat it like 3rd graders. Seems this is the only facility to do that.
  11. by   nurseangel47
    OK. This is the point where HPPA regs. and policies should be examined, or re-examined, I should say In my opinion, anyway. That is XXXX ridiculous and I'd be so inflammed I'd quit on the spot. That is the most ludicrous, atrocious violations of YOUR rights I've ever heard of....what about one of the organizations that offer legal advice/support free of charge and even represent one when one's own legal rights have been violated?
    Last edit by sirI on Dec 20, '06 : Reason: TOS
  12. by   jenna_rn
    I work in a busy ER.. I had the Unit Clerk telephone for them, then they were faxed over. Staff do it all the time.. and no computer trail.Slightly unethical...
  13. by   skipaway
    We actually have a tracking program built into our computers that record login info. So if you are looking at patient's data that you have no business looking at, they have a trail. A very good friend was fired for looking up her mother's labwork. No warning whatsoever.
  14. by   grammyr
    Coworker got fired for looking at her own record. This was not her first offense though

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