question about privacy

  1. I was wondering if anyone could answer a question regarding privacy regulations. I was a patient at Banner Health in Arizona and an in-law, who is an RN looked up all my medical information without my permission. My husband and I had a miscarriage and she spread around the family that my ultrasound read "hemmoraging" and so I didn't have any miscarriage, then she proceeded to tell about all of my medical problems. Is there a way I can report this and put some kind of lock on my medical chart? My husband and I are trying to have a child and I feel violated. Thanks for anyone's help.
    Pearl
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    About pearl4M92

    Joined: Sep '06; Posts: 9

    19 Comments

  3. by   skipaway
    This is a HIPPA violation and you can report her to her supervisor and you can report her to the State Board of Nursing. My condolenses to you and your husband.
  4. by   Pepper The Cat
    She violated your privacy big time. At my hospital, this would be considered a breach of confidenitaly (sp?) and she could be fired. I got in some trouble because I looked up my OWN lab results. We have some nurses fired because they looked up a co-workers chart. If you were not a pt on her floor/unit, she had no right to look at the chart. If she was your nurse (and it sounds like she wasn't) she still has an obligation to keep your medical history private.
    There must be a Risk Manager or something similar to that at that hospital. Contact them.
    My condolenses on your loss.
  5. by   bagladyrn
    All hospitals must have a person in charge of HIPAA compliance. You could start the complaint process by calling and requesting to speak to their HIPAA Compliance officer.
  6. by   pearl4M92
    Thanks so much!
    Pearl
  7. by   rn/writer
    I'm so sorry you went through a miscarriage and then this huge invasion of privacy.

    Reporting the matter to the hospital administration is probably the most direct route to having someone investigate your complaint.

    Before you do that, though, you should count the cost. I don't know what kind of relationship you and your husband have with his mother, but turning her in is not likely to improve it. Especially if it results in her being fired. Other family members may also be drawn in to the mess with you being cast in the role of the bad guy.

    Am I telling you not to do it? Not at all. Just take the time to mull it over and talk with your husband about the possible outcomes.

    Even if you don't report her, there should still be a reaction to what she did and a clear-cut statement of boundaries made. Her opportunity to have contact with you, your husband, and your future children should definitely be contingent upon her willingness to respect whatever limits you have set. The more respect, the more access.

    As for what you should do right now, only you and your spouse can weigh the alternatives and their consequences.

    I wish you well in this endeavor and in your efforts to become parents.
    Last edit by rn/writer on Sep 15, '06
  8. by   sirI
    Hello, pearl4M92,

    I am so very sorry for your loss......

    Here is a link for reporting obvious HIPAA violations:

    http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacyhowtofile.htm

    As rn/writer so eloquently pointed out, take some time to think this over before reacting.

    I only wish for you good things for the future for you and your family.
  9. by   Halinja
    I am so sorry for your loss. I miscarried three times, and remember how badly that hurt emotionally...for a very, very long time.

    Of course what she did is a violation of privacy, and of law. But it is family and turning her in could have lifelong repercussions. I'd discuss it with your husband first, then maybe with the in-law herself. Make it very clear that what she did is wrong, and that you are upset and angry. (good grief, she's an RN, she has to know that violates HIPPA!) Where you go from there might hinge on her response.

    ((((pearl4M92)))) My heart goes out to you...
  10. by   fleur-de-lis
    Maybe just talking to her and letting her know that she violated your privacy, and make sure she knows that YOU KNOW it violates HIPPA also. Hopefully she would get the hint. If you and your husband are not satisifed with her response, you can still report her violation.

    I am so sorry for your loss and the added insult from your mother-in-law.
  11. by   elkpark
    I worked as a state and Federal surveyor for several years, and once investigated a v. similar complaint that was made to my agency -- a person had been admitted to a hospital for a very private, sensitive reason, and a family member who was an employee of the hospital looked up the records and shared the info with other family members without consent. The hospital promptly fired the employee as a result of their own, internal investigation after a complaint was made to them.

    HIPAA is serious business. I second what others on this thread have said about carefully considering what you want to do, and the long term ramifications of whatever action you take. However, keep in mind, also, that what she did is a v. serious violation of Federal law. If you choose to complain to the Feds about the HIPAA violation, there are serious penalties (fines) for confirmed violations, even unintentional ones, and there can be prison time (plus fines) for intentional violations. If you report this to the facility's HIPAA compliance officer (yes, every facility is required to have one), she will probably get fired for that blatant a violation. You can also report her to the state Board of Nursing and complain to the state agency that licenses hospitals (that was the agency I worked for in my state -- it's called something different in every state, but is usually a division of the state Dept. of Health and Human Services (or whatever that's called in your state )).

    I'm v. sorry for your loss -- best wishes.
    Last edit by elkpark on Sep 15, '06
  12. by   caroladybelle
    If she did look in the file, then she did violate HIPAA and could risk major penalties.

    But first, be certain that is what actually happened.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    A few years ago, I was accused falsely of having violated HIPAA by reading the chart of my stepmother's brother. (there had been long term bad blood over Dad's remarriage).

    And I most certainly had not had any contact with the man, in or out of the hospital.

    It seems like the brother "J" had told his wife that he had been completely cured of lung cancer w/mets, by chemo. My stepmother was discussing curing lung cancer with chemo. I (not being aware of her brother having lung ca) commented most forms of noresectable lung ca especially w/mets is not curable by chemo alone, in the vast majority of cases.

    A few monthes later, she asks me questions about various symptoms. I give my opinion. She at no time told me that it was about her brother nor that he died in the hospital where I worked, on a different floor.

    Daddy and stepmother dies. Acrimony follows as I attempt to get some family items from the house. Ugly scene erupts, and lawyers get called. Brother's wife then threatens me with loss of license since she can "prove I read " her husband's chart, because I" told his sister" that he died of Lung cancer.

    I didn't know he was dead, but because of what I had said about lung cancer to the sister - she figured out how he died. And he had tried to hide the reoccurance of the lung cancer from his family.

    The nervy little lawyer had to ask me how I knew so much about lung cancer. He actually confirmed what I said with an MD, before accepting the explanation.

    Please be sure that you know "the facts" before making an accusation.
  13. by   firstaiddave907
    i am sorry for your loss best wishes
  14. by   TazziRN
    Quote from caroladybelle
    If she did look in the file, then she did violate HIPAA and could risk major penalties. But first, be certain that is what actually happened. Please be sure that you know "the facts" before making an accusation.
    It's pretty obvious what the facts are, if the family found out without Pearl saying anything. And how else would the family know that she had hemorrhaged?

    That said, Pearl, if your in-law is an RN with any brains at all, she should know that hemorrhaging is often a complication of childbirth and miscarriages. Shame on her for saying that you and your DH lied. Whether or not you and your DH decide to pursue this, yes it is possible to have a block placed on your chart. When you are in the hospital you would be given a false name, and if anyone tried to call asking for you they would be told "We have no one by that name."

    Unless your DH is adamant about not making waves in the family, I would report this. If she breached your privacy, chances are she's breached the privacy of other people she knows.

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