HIPAA and Teens

  1. A question for you all: Does HIPAA prevent a healthcare provider from revealing a teen-ager's medical information (regarding a minor injury) directly to the child (who is competent and capable of understanding)?

    It would seem to me that the common sense answer would be no, but common sense and HIPAA don't seem to go together.

    Here's the situation: My 13-year old daughter injured her ankle at precisely 6pm last Thursday, just as the doctor's office was closing. I took her to Urgent Care, where she was examined, given pain meds, X-rayed, and sent home on crutches with an air splint. The physician who saw her indicated that he did not see a fracture on the X-ray. We were referred to her primary doc for follow-up, and told (by both the doc and nurse) that we would be called by the radiologist the next day only if his reading of the X-ray disagreed with the initial reading by the Urgent Care doc.

    We heard nothing, and assumed we were dealing with a sprain. At 9pm on Friday, while Hubby and I were out, my daughter received a phone call from U.C. stating that her X-ray results were available, but could not be given to her due to HIPAA. She was rattled, because she assumed that since we were being called, she had a fracture. She called me on my cell phone so I could return the call to U.C. Unfortunately, the call-back number she was given was an internal extension that did not accept outside calls. I called the Children's Hospital which runs the U.C. and explained that I was trying to return a call for X-ray results, and the operator kept transferring me to pathology, not radiology. After 3 or 4 tries, I gave up, and decided to call the next day.

    The next day, I reached the U.C., and was told that I would have to wait for the nurse to call me. I'm sure that she was trying to make calls between patients, so by late afternoon, I finally heard that my daughter's X-rays were fine.

    Now, I'm glad that she doesn't have a broken bone, but can anyone explain to me why no one would give that information to my responsible, competent 13-year-old daughter, even if it was accompanied by instructions to have her parents call back? And why is it soooo difficult to get a simple test result over the phone????

    OK. I feel better now that I've vented.
  2. Visit Jolie profile page

    About Jolie

    Joined: Oct '01; Posts: 9,619; Likes: 14,065


  3. by   lpnstudentin2010
    That is weird that they would not tell her. I have been told as much as I can understand my whole life and I feel like she would be able to understand, "your bone is not broken" that is not a very hard consept to grasp at all.
  4. by   Altra
    Sounds like complete crap to me.

    Hard to believe that someone who works in healthcare actually formed the thought in his/her head, "I am speaking directly to the patient, who is competent to receive the straightforward information I have to share, but I "cannot" give the information due to HIPAA."
  5. by   Jolie
    Thank you both for your replies.

    My daughter was indignant at the notion that she could not receive her own simple medical information due to "privacy laws."

    Kind of scary when the absurdity of this is clear to a 13 year-old, but not the educated healthcare professional on the other end of the phone.
  6. by   BlueRidgeHomeRN
    i wonder if this was really hipaa, or just a cya to make sure the responsible party (i.e. mom and dad) had the correct info to work with?? mind you, i am the mother of a now adult son who hid a broken hand for 5 days..he didn't want us to know he swung at his brother and missed, hitting a brick wall instead..!!!

    and, his dear brother, at age 13 (even until age 20 something!!) would have "uh-huh'd" into the phone while playing a video game, and either not told us about the call or forgotten the message given to him!

    so, although your daughter is a bright, responsable young lady..many kids, especially those with a "y" chromosome, are idiots. just a thought from a mother of only boys...and the delighted grandmother of another one. payback time....:chuckle
  7. by   Jolie
    I wonder the same, BlueRidge. I just would think if that were the case, the nurse would have been professional enough to say so. "I'm sorry, Miss Teenager, we need to be certain that your parents get this information, so please have them call us back." And then provide an accurate call-back number!
  8. by   ElvishDNP
    As someone who's worked in a doctor's office in recent history (meaning after the beginning of lovely lovely HIPAA), here's my take.

    I'm going to tell you because you're the parent and ergo legally the responsible party for making sure your dd's health is provided for. If I don't tell you, it's going to be my butt in the frying pan should something go wrong. As someone on the other end of the phone line, I have no idea what your dd is going to do w/ the information she gets, or even if she'll remember it. Now, your daughter might do quite well, but others might not, and I have no way of knowing who's who via telephone. The mode of communication is what makes it tricky.

    Had this been a face-to-face encounter where I'm going to have ample opportunity to talk w/ both of you this almost becomes a non-issue. I'm glad there's no fx.
  9. by   Jolie

    I think you're right. I just wish she would have said so, rather than "blaming" HIPAA for her unwillingness to release the information.
  10. by   lpnstudentin2010
    Quote from Jolie

    I think you're right. I just wish she would have said so, rather than "blaming" HIPAA for her unwillingness to release the information.
    couldnt she have told the daughter, and then also called again, or had you call her back? I mean come on she deserves to get the info.
  11. by   rn/writer
    The only legitimate reason I can think of for invoking HIPAA is that the caller might have had a concern about whom she was actually speaking to. Maybe a sibling answered the phone. Or a visiting friend. Without an adult to connect with, I can see why there might be some hesitation.

    That said, this was not handled well at all.

    At the very least, there should have been a workable call-back number that didn't require hours of waiting. On their end, it appears that contacting you took on a low priority because the results were negative. But you didn't know that. And what about parents who have no medical background? No one should have to wait hours and hours to find out how their child's tests came out.

    I would suggest that you talk to the manager at the urgent care center and express your dissatisfaction about how this was handled. I would also suggest that if this situation comes up in the future you have a notation made on the chart (with your signature if need be) that they may leave the results with your child. If this is basically a CYA issue, you will have C'd their As and maybe they will feel better about acting with some common sense
  12. by   AlabamaBelle
    I find this all a little puzzling. You can actually get information before your daughter can?? Had this been an issue regarding her reproductive health, ie, a pregnancy, disease, the MDs office would not have spoken with you at all, but only to your daughter. But they couldn't tell her she had a broken or not broken bone? I'm all for CYA and do use HIPPA to my advantage, but I'm having trouble with this one. She could have verified her identity and a good call back as suggested will have been in order.

  13. by   lpnstudentin2010
    I could understand about not telling her over the phone if it was something horrible, severely broken bone that needs surgery, or if they had found a mass on the x ray that they wanted to investigate further. That would make sense to not tell her on the phone when she was home alone. But that her bone is NOT broken?
  14. by   hypocaffeinemia
    Like others have said, I can understand the need to talk to the parent.

    However, this isn't a HIPAA regulation.