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HIPAA violation? Contacting friend about seeing her in hall?

HIPAA   (2,428 Views 8 Comments)
by Kd856 Kd856 (New) New

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I just started working on a labor and delivery unit as a tech while finishing up nursing school. An old coworker of mine and friend on Facebook posted about her delivery with pictures and such. I thought that I had recognized a face but couldn't place it (hadn't seen her in person in years) and went about my work as normal. When I saw her post I got really happy for her and emailed her personally with the following

"Congratulations on your new baby! She is beautiful! Did you have her at *******? I work in labor and delivery as a tech, and I saw someone that I thought looked so familiar that I couldn't place! Now that I see you delivered, I have to know if it was you!"

And once I thought about how that could not look great in the eyes of HIPAA, followed up with the following

"Either way, rather it be *******or ******, she is gorgeous! Both are fabulous hospitals, and I hope you are all doing great!"

She is not one to report anything like that, but I am so paranoid and nervous now! Is that considered a violation? She posted to Facebook, and I responded personally and don't discuss work with others except to this one isolated time and degree. I didn't look up records, despite accessibility, and have no intention or desire! I will never do this again and feel so guilty. Would this be considered a true and punishable violation?

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NICU Guy has 4 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in NICU.

1 Follower; 3,526 Posts; 32,258 Profile Views

You saw the notification for her delivery on Facebook. You did not look up her name on the EMR to see if it was her. Once you verified it was her, you did not look up her medical information. No, it is not a Hipaa violation.

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12 Followers; 3,686 Posts; 27,409 Profile Views

"Congratulations on your new baby! She is beautiful! Did you have her at *******? I work in labor and delivery as a tech, and I saw someone that I thought looked so familiar that I couldn't place! Now that I see you delivered, I have to know if it was you!"

No HIPAA violation.

But. It involves two or more elements that don't go well together in our current environment: Inquiry into personal matters (could be taken as nosiness) + healthcare worker + social media.

I'm no fan of the wrong ways that HIPAA is applied, at all. But we do have a duty to also maintain patients' sense of privacy wherever we can, beyond this one law. In this scenario, your acquaintance might wonder just how curious you were about that face you couldn't place. The reason for your email was directly connected to the fact that you work at the hospital - a fact that would make any HIPAA officer nervous. You basically asked, "Was that you I saw at my hospital?" I don't mean this harshly, but it is, in fact, nosiness.

These conversations (like your email) end up being a net negative almost always.

Satisfying our curiosities in this way just isn't worth it any more. Some of this will wear off the more you get used to seeing people come and go from the hospital.

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KelRN215 has 10 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Pedi.

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Not a HIPAA violation- telling someone you thought you saw them at your place of employment.

HIPAA violation- telling the world you saw said person at your place of work as a patient.

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1 Follower; 2,232 Posts; 48,175 Profile Views

In addition to the points JKL33 addressed, you should consider that it might be a violation of your facility's social media policy.

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psu_213 has 6 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Emergency, Telemetry, Transplant.

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HIPAA violation- telling the world you saw said person at your place of work as a patient.

Or going into their chart to confirm it was them.

As mentioned, even though it was not a HIPAA violation, emailing her was probably not the best. Even though she probably would not report the OP, it would not look very good if she called in to patient relations claiming that her privacy was violated.

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Meriwhen is a ASN, BSN, RN and specializes in Psych ICU, addictions.

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Not a HIPAA violation...however, it does have the potential to be miscontrued as one. Plus, as other posters have said, it could be violating your facility's social media policy.

I would just have said "Congratulations!" and left out the part about your having thought you had seen her in the facility. If she tells you it was at your facility, then you could say, "I thought that was you who I saw!"

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Have Nurse has 25 years experience and specializes in Med/Surg/Infection Control/Geriatrics.

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I just started working on a labor and delivery unit as a tech while finishing up nursing school. An old coworker of mine and friend on Facebook posted about her delivery with pictures and such. I thought that I had recognized a face but couldn't place it (hadn't seen her in person in years) and went about my work as normal. When I saw her post I got really happy for her and emailed her personally with the following

"Congratulations on your new baby! She is beautiful! Did you have her at *******? I work in labor and delivery as a tech, and I saw someone that I thought looked so familiar that I couldn't place! Now that I see you delivered, I have to know if it was you!"

And once I thought about how that could not look great in the eyes of HIPAA, followed up with the following

"Either way, rather it be *******or ******, she is gorgeous! Both are fabulous hospitals, and I hope you are all doing great!"

She is not one to report anything like that, but I am so paranoid and nervous now! Is that considered a violation? She posted to Facebook, and I responded personally and don't discuss work with others except to this one isolated time and degree. I didn't look up records, despite accessibility, and have no intention or desire! I will never do this again and feel so guilty. Would this be considered a true and punishable violation?

You are fine. She went public with it first.

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