Need help!! HIPAA complaint

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    I've been a nurse for 11 years. I have never had one complaint against me for anything. I started working for this company that does chart reviews for insurance companies. I recently visited a site last week and just got a call with a complaint that I made a HIPPA violation. I don't believe I did anything wrong. When we go to a site, we are required to bring them a signed confidentiality statement for their records and we need to check with the site contact before we leave the site. Here's what happened....got to the site, talked to the site contact who happens to be the manager of the practice. She brought me to the conference room and set me up with everything I needed. I went about my day and printed the charts that I needed from the EMR and scanned them like I am supposed to do. The manager/site contact came into the room and asked me how everything was going. I told her really good. She asked if I was almost done with my work. I told her yes I was just needed to finish a few more pages and I would be out of her hair. She said great and told me to have a safe drive home. I then asked her where she would like me to bring the charts that I had reviewed. She asked what do I normally do with them. I told her that we need to shred them. She said ok no problem and said to just leave them on the table and the girls would shred them in the morning. I said ok sounds good and I thanked her for her hospitality. I left 10 min. later.

    Now this morning I get a call saying I've had a complaint that I didn't check in with the site contact before I left and that I also had a HIPPA violation because I left the charts on the table (face down). I talked to the manager right before I was done and told her that I would be a few minutes. I didn't think I needed to check back in with her since she knew I was going to be leaving after scanning a cpl of pieces of paper which doesn't take long. To top it all off the hospital committee board used the room I was in for a conference the next morning and the charts were still in there. I am assuming they weren't taken care of yet because the staff wasn't in yet since they meet very early in the morning. NOW, the site is blaming me and saying that I violated HIPPA... I was just doing what I was told by the manager of the facility with THEIR chart information. THey weren't left in a place where the public could access and I was simply following what the manager told me to do. Now there is going to be an investigation and possible(probable) termination. Is there anything that I can do????? I'm just sick right now and I think this might affect any other job opportunity I have.
  2. 6 Comments so far...

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    It is a shame that your manager told you to leave the papers on the table. Even if they were face down, anyone could easily scoop them up and flip them over. So I could see how they would be concerned with a HIPAA violation. Don't beat yourself up, I'm sure nothing will come of it.
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    Sounds like they are throwing you under the bus to cover anything they did to contribute to the situation. Just be honest and tell your side, while also saying you will take more responsibility in the future to insure there will never be a problem like this again. Use this as a learning experience for the future. Witness the shredding in the future and make sure nothing is left that could be used against you or cause problems with privacy of others. Good Luck.
    salvadordolly and SleeepyRN like this.
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    In order to have committed a HIPAA violation, you would have to have released the information without authorization - which you did not do. In a position like yours, however, because of situations like this I would be very antsy about leaving something like this to be performed later by someone who was not even present when you were given these instructions. I don't believe that the facility has a case for a HIPAA violation, but in the future it would be a good idea not to trust that someone else will do their job later. Make sure that you do everything you can to ensure that any records you have used are secured before you leave.
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    That's a rough one. You were following the instructions of the person in charge of that site (who you understood was telling you that the room was secure), and I think that's what you can hold to.

    Yeah, they can argue that the documents were in your custody, and you had a responsibility to personally destroy them. If you had left while that site manager was still in the room, we wouldn't even be having this conversation. Your best (and most accurate) argument, I think, is that you considered that room to be secure. The site manager instructed you to leave them there, and you understood that to mean that the room was secure, and the documents would be destroyed before any unauthorized person had a chance to see them.

    In retrospect, yes, you absolutely should have told the site manager that you wanted to see them destroyed in person, and asked where the shredder was. (Do that from now on.) I think you know that, and as far as this incident goes, you understood that the room you were leaving those documents in was secure.
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    It's rarely a good idea to have your job (or evaluation) dependent on somebody else doing his. In this case, you should have said something like, "Thanks for the offer. It's my responsibility to take care of this, so just show me where the shredder is and I'll take care of it now."
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    Quote from crazy&cuteRN
    It is a shame that your manager told you to leave the papers on the table. Even if they were face down, anyone could easily scoop them up and flip them over. So I could see how they would be concerned with a HIPAA violation. Don't beat yourself up, I'm sure nothing will come of it.

    That is not a HIPAA violation. Not even close.

    1. She did check in with the site contact....that is what she was required to do.

    2. The reviewer is not responsible for how the facility manages the charts. She printed and scanned what she needed and ASKED what she needed to do with them...she was told to leave them on the table and when she left, guess who was responsible for the charts at that point? The facility.

    I would be willing to bet she forgot to shred the paper and when someone questioned it, I bet she said, "Oh, that lady was here and she just walked out and left these here."
    salvadordolly and morte like this.


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