Is being friends with a patient a HIPAA violation

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    I hope you all would not be upset that I created an account but I didnt know where else to get the information that I need (because you all are nurses, I'm assuming you all know this). I am not a nurse but I have a question about the HIPAA law and I dont fully understand it. I found out about it when I tried to friend my nurse practitioner (we were friends on facebook for about 2 hours), She told me about it that since shes my "nurse" she could not communicate with me outside of the hospital because of this law and I thought that it only applied to direct nurses that you would see all the time and not one you had on their shift one time?

    I thought HIPAA was insurance?? I know that sounds really dumb but really what I wanted to know is does HIPAA restrict any nurse from communicating with a patient out side of the hospital even if they only saw you one time for a few hours?

    I ask that because I actually became friends with the nurse that helped deliver my baby for about 4 months (and I even went to her babys funeral too) and we were talking and texting each other until she told me that she didnt realize it but she had made a "professional mistake" when she gave me her number and that she was sorry but we could not communicate anymore because she didnt realize that she wasnt supposed to talk to me outside of the hospital. i saw her one time for a few hours and now it seems HIPAA completely forbids us from continuing our friendship and it hurts a little. I could tell by the text that she didnt wanna tell me that and it was quite hard for her too.

    I don't understand how HIPAA can tell people what and who they can talk to... it is disturbing to me as long as the nurse doesnt discuss your personal information, why is it a problem? we never discussed what happened at the hospital and we were friends, not a patient/nurse relationship. I hope Im not overwhelming you with my message, i was just wanting clear understanding of the hipaa law because even though I have read it, I still dont understand it. Oh and by the way , I am getting ready to do medical billing so i will be in the medical field so my account isnt completely invain!


    Last edit by NRSKarenRN on 11:02 am
    Last edit by Esme12 on Sep 24, '12
    Joe V likes this.
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  3. 11 Comments so far...

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    Kmcrawford...create a thread asking that question. This post is about something else . But Hippa is a law that basically protects patients privacy and states that only the necessary ppl will have your medical information and will promise to keep everything confidential. Its to say, If I was your nurse, I cant turn around and tell my family your name and your health information. If I did that could be punishable by law and I could lose my job and pay a huge fine. Now as far as them not being able to communicate with you...that has nothing to do with HIPPA. I know nurses that have met taken care of ppl ,and now they are married. I'm not sure if they just regret giving you their number after getting to know you a little bit better and are trying to use HIPPA as an excuse, or if they have some rule at that hospital that says you can not be friend a patient. But HIPPA is based around protection of personal information. Google it. I have never heard that it restricts a friendship. They would not be able to give you your lab results or anything like that, but they should be able to befriend you. I am friends with my doctor on facebook. And I am friends with patients I have taken care of in real life. Hope this helps to answer your question. Good luck with Medical billing
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    Quote from kmcrawford
    I hope you all would not be upset that I created an account but I didnt know where else to get the information that I need (because you all are nurses, I'm assuming you all know this). I am not a nurse but I have a question about the HIPAA law and I dont fully understand it. I found out about it when I tried to friend my nurse practitioner (we were friends on facebook for about 2 hours) and she told me about it that since shes my "nurse" she could not communicate with me outside of the hospital because of this law and I thought that it only applied to direct nurses that you would see all the time and not one you had on their shift one time? I thought HIPAA was insurance?? I know that sounds really dumb but really what I wanted to know is does HIPAA restrict any nurse from communicating with a patient out side of the hospital even if they only saw you one time for a few hours? I ask that because I actually became friends with the nurse that helped deliver my baby for about 4 months (and I even went to her babys funeral too) and we were talking and texting each other until she told me that she didnt realize it but she had made a "professional mistake" when she gave me her number and that she was sorry but we could not communicate anymore because she didnt realize that she wasnt supposed to talk to me outside of the hospital. i saw her one time for a few hours and now it seems HIPAA completely forbids us from continuing our friendship and it hurts a little. I could tell by the text that she didnt wanna tell me that and it was quite hard for her too. I don't understand how HIPAA can tell people what and who they can talk to... it is disturbing to me as long as the nurse doesnt discuss your personal information, why is it a problem? we never discussed what happened at the hospital and we were friends, not a patient/nurse relationship. I hope Im not overwhelming you with my message, i was just wanting clear understanding of the hipaa law because even though I have read it, I still dont understand it. Oh and by the way , I am getting ready to do medical billing so i will be in the medical field so my account isnt completely invain!
    This was your NP's way of letting you know that she felt your "friendship" was violating the boundaries of a professional relationship. She is not comfortable being "personal" friends with you and does not want to continue the friendship on that level. Please respect her in this. I enjoy my patients but never, ever let them into my personal life. There is too much potential liability and I need boundaries for my own sanity. I need my work to stay at work and my private life to remain separate. Undoubtedly your NP feels the same.
    squidbillies and llg like this.
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    @kmcrawford,
    HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and does have to do with insurance and other aspects of health care management. There is a whole set of threads on this topic in All Nurses. Here's a link to a starting place; if you type "HIPAA" in the search window at the top of the page you'll find this and many more. allnurses.com/hipaa-nursing.../answer-hipaa-violation-693686.html

    In a clinical context, HIPAA says that private health information must be carefully safeguarded. For example, it would be wrong for one of your caregivers to identify you by name, picture, or other personal information in a way that would make it possible for someone to learn about your private health information, such as the fact that you were in ABC Hospital for XYZ diagnosis.

    Your nurse practitioner may find that it's a potential conflict of interest to be personal friends with a patient, and may decline to Facebook "friend" you for that reason. It can be difficult to do that, and it can also be awkward in some situations. Or she just may not want to be in the same kind of friend relationship that it seems you desire for reasons of her own. She is free to decline this relationship, of course. But it's not because of any requirements in HIPAA.
    Meriwhen likes this.
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    dulplicate threads merged
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    I work in a huge clinic. Of course people become our patients whom I have known outside the clinic setting. It can be a little "weird" like getting personal emails sometimes on my off hours asking about a refill, etc. Boundaries are important in health care and you need to protect your self at times. Privacy is a bit of a different matter. Example: "we used to go to college together and now I go to the clinic where you work! Small world!" Doesn't mean we're besties now! And it means that I protect that person's privacy just as fiercely as with anyone else.

    It would seem, OP, that a question to ask yourself, is whether you have had issues with this happening in other areas of your life. It is not typical to suddenly become besties with your health care provider.
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    HIPAA doesn't prevent you from being friends with a patient, but it does matter where the friendship started and who initiated it.

    For example, since the NP is CURRENTLY in charge of your care and you sent her an unsolicited friend request...she is telling you that she prefers to keep her private life private. If she "friends" you on Facebook, you'll have access to her personal posts, picture of her family, etc. That is not a good practice. She also doesn't want to know more about you than you are willing to tell her in the office. Sending her the request, is simply, not appropriate.

    Now, when you had your baby, the nurse there should not have given you her personal information...that is a violation of facility policy most anywhere, therefore, she was right to terminate the friendship.

    However, as a former baby-nurse, I have many family members on my friends list...100% of them were initiated by the PARENTS, AFTER their baby was discharged from the hospital.

    As long as the patient isn't in and out of the hospital, that is considered OK if both parties agree.

    Do you see the difference?
    mcrawford likes this.
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    In a rural area, it is inevitable that one will encounter friends and family members when giving care. The establishment of boundaries, however necessary, must be done very carefully to avoid giving offense.
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    .... I replied with a quote...
    Last edit by mcrawford on Jan 2, '13 : Reason: I meant to reply with a quote
  12. 0
    Quote from Jory
    HIPAA doesn't prevent you from being friends with a patient, but it does matter where the friendship started and who initiated it.

    For example, since the NP is CURRENTLY in charge of your care and you sent her an unsolicited friend request...she is telling you that she prefers to keep her private life private. If she "friends" you on Facebook, you'll have access to her personal posts, picture of her family, etc. That is not a good practice. She also doesn't want to know more about you than you are willing to tell her in the office. Sending her the request, is simply, not appropriate.

    Now, when you had your baby, the nurse there should not have given you her personal information...that is a violation of facility policy most anywhere, therefore, she was right to terminate the friendship.

    However, as a former baby-nurse, I have many family members on my friends list...100% of them were initiated by the PARENTS, AFTER their baby was discharged from the hospital.

    As long as the patient isn't in and out of the hospital, that is considered OK if both parties agree.

    Do you see the difference?
    Thank you so much for your reply. I do appreciate it


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