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Coworker violated HIPPA

HIPAA   (4,374 Views 31 Comments)
by AsanRN AsanRN (New Member) New Member

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Now let me ask you this:

If you are concerned about your nephew's privacy and potential violations of trust between you and your nephew regarding the sensitive nature of his situation, why on earth would you bring this up as a topic with a coworker? Frankly I think your doing so is even worse because he is a patient of the clinic. He's not just your nephew, he's your nephew and a patient at your clinic for whom your coworkers need to care.

I'm not defending the inappropriate disclosure, I'm asking about your motivations. There are only two possible motivations. Only two. You either hoped someone would violate HIPAA and give you the answer so that you could both have the answer and be able to blame someone else for having it, or you simply wanted to test your good friend to see whether she would compromise your nephew's privacy when put in a really uncomfortable position, and you chose to do that by violating your nephew's trust.

If you cared about your nephew's trust, you wouldn't have taken the chance with this conversation. [if I believed in reporting every little thing, which I don't], this coworker should have reported you for "fishing for PHI" instead of responding to your question, but you didn't help things by talking about it as if you already knew the answer.

This is honestly one of the more odd things I've read here lately.

She didn't violate the nephew's trust because he doesn't know about her newfound knowledge of his syphilis. At least, she doesn't know if he knows.

She did violate her own principles, it would seem.

Is fishing a violation?

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59 Likes; 3 Followers; 33,536 Visitors; 4,124 Posts

There's a number of things going on here that concern me, but mostly I agree with JKL. If you wanted to keep your distance in a professional sense, why bring him up when your "friend" was using her computer? What did you want her to say? I mean, you put yourself in her place, how would you have responded?

"You know I can't talk about it. I know we're friends, but please don't put me in this awkward position again because you know we both have to follow the rules.".

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1,077 Likes; 7 Followers; 21,218 Visitors; 2,677 Posts

She didn't violate the nephew's trust because he doesn't know about her newfound knowledge of his syphilis

Cheaters of the world, take note! ^ ;)

I don't think fishing is a technical violation - - although that's a legit question. This conversation was the verbal version of accessing a chart you had no business being in.....isn't it?

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Penelope_Pitstop has 13 years experience and works as a Registered Nurse.

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"You know I can't talk about it. I know we're friends, but please don't put me in this awkward position again because you know we both have to follow the rules.".

Yes, that's the right way to answer! I agree completely.

But what answer did you expect or want, OP?

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Penelope_Pitstop has 13 years experience and works as a Registered Nurse.

2 Likes; 45,483 Visitors; 2,365 Posts

Cheaters of the world, take note! ^ ;)

I don't think fishing is a technical violation - - although that's a legit question. This conversation was the verbal version of accessing a chart you had no business being in.....isn't it?

It's very similar to the concept of "leading the witness" in court.

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She didn't violate the nephew's trust because he doesn't know about her newfound knowledge of his syphilis. At least, she doesn't know if he knows.

She did violate her own principles, it would seem.

Is fishing a violation?

OMG. Too confusing. Reminds me of that Friends episode when Phoebe goes, "they don't know that we know they know we know."

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Have Nurse has 25 years experience and works as a A.D.O.N..

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HIPAA is a federal law. Violating it is not a trifling matter. You should also consider the possible implications for yourself if it is discovered that you knew about a violation and did not report it.

I agree.

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Have Nurse has 25 years experience and works as a A.D.O.N..

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I agree that your "friend" violated HIPAA and as you aware of it, you are obligated to report it to your HIPAA or Compliance Officer. Secondly, the fact that you discussed your nephew with someone regarding his medical condition( am assuming without his permission,) has me concerned about your conduct as well.

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232 Likes; 1 Follower; 13,025 Visitors; 1,360 Posts

I think you violated your nephew's privacy when you speculated that he might have syphilis in front of your coworker.

Regardless of the law, you committed the greater moral wrong.

I am stunned that you are upset with your coworker over this situation.

Even when I give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you were not fishing, and were just venting; I still think you should not have been venting to her. And I would still expect you to understand in hindsight why she revealed info to you. And I would fully expect that also, at least in hindsight you would recognize that you messed up.

Edited to add:

I have a family member by marriage who was formerly on the caseload where I work. It's psych and privacy is paramount. For a long time, no one knew about it but me. The cat was let out of the bag innocently by the forner patient. Not a violation. But I am very clear with my team that I do not want to hear anything about her. Please don't reminisce even. One time someone talked about her baking and I reminded her to say no more as it could get tricky very quickly for both of us.

That is how I expect you to handle this. HIV status and STD is highly stigmatized, just like mental health. It would have been better if no one knew this was your nephew. In fact, it would have been ideal if you had referred him somewhere you don't work. If I had the choice, I would.

Edited by FolksBtrippin

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563 Likes; 3 Followers; 25,917 Visitors; 5,221 Posts

Now let me ask you this:

If you are concerned about your nephew's privacy and potential violations of trust between you and your nephew regarding the sensitive nature of his situation, why on earth would you bring this up as a topic with a coworker? Frankly I think your doing so is even worse because he is a patient of the clinic. He's not just your nephew, he's your nephew and a patient at your clinic for whom your coworkers need to care.

I'm not defending the inappropriate disclosure, I'm asking about your motivations. There are only two possible motivations. Only two. You either hoped someone would violate HIPAA and give you the answer so that you could both have the answer and be able to blame someone else for having it, or you simply wanted to test your good friend to see whether she would compromise your nephew's privacy when put in a really uncomfortable position, and you chose to do that by violating your nephew's trust.

If you cared about your nephew's trust, you wouldn't have taken the chance with this conversation. [if I believed in reporting every little thing, which I don't], this coworker should have reported you for "fishing for PHI" instead of responding to your question, but you didn't help things by talking about it as if you already knew the answer.

This is honestly one of the more odd things I've read here lately.

I agree with every word of this.

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563 Likes; 3 Followers; 25,917 Visitors; 5,221 Posts

She didn't violate the nephew's trust because he doesn't know about her newfound knowledge of his syphilis. At least, she doesn't know if he knows.

She did violate her own principles, it would seem.

Is fishing a violation?

Just because he doesn't know she violated his trust doesn't mean she didn't violate his trust. I'm sure he trusted her not to be "casually" speculating that he has syphilis at the nurse's station.

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563 Likes; 3 Followers; 25,917 Visitors; 5,221 Posts

What would you do?

What do you guys think?

As we are professionals whose posts are read by lay people as well as other nurses, we should use proper terminology and spelling of important words and acronyms. The thread title should reference HIPAA, not HIPPA. A moderator could change the title for you.

Your coworker did violate HIPAA, but I fail to see how you could not recognize your own serious transgression here. You had no right to "casually" discuss your nephew's private health information with anyone else. Telling a coworker (who may or may not have known about his specific diagnoses) that you suspect your nephew has syphilis was a terrible violation of his privacy and is none of your business in the first place. The fact that this coworker rewarded your little fishing expedition with confirmation of your suspicions does not in any way lessen your own culpability.

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