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kcurry90 kcurry90 (New Member)

HIPAA violation and future employment opportunities

HIPAA   (4,476 Views 27 Comments)
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Hi,

I am currently under iinvestigation for a HIPAA violation at my facility. This was a one time occurrence, I had a friend in the hospital which I work at whom I hadn't heard from and was worried about so I quickly clicked her chart one night to ensure she was ok since I hadn't heard from her. She is aware I did this, this isn't anything I was trying to hide from her. (Please no nasty comments, as I've seen many people like to leave). I know what I did was wrong and have learned from this. I am currently 7 months pregnant and the stress this has been causing me is unmeasurable.

My question is, are all HIPAA violations reported to the board or some entity that is made public knowledge for future employers to find? I'm asking because I am considering resigning before they terminate me, since I am almost certain that is going to be the outcome. I feel since it was such a small scale violation it won't be reported, however I haven't been able to find any information on this online. Resigning always seems the better option, especially if this violation won't be made public for anyone to find out.

Thanks!

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Not to sound nieve but what benefit would an attorney be in the situation? I am not trying to dispute the claim or save my current job. I cannot imagine this is something that would land jail time or anything of that nature. From what I have read, once the compliance officer contacts the individual whose info was accessed and they claim no harm has been done then the investigation more or less stops. Of course I know this gets reported somewhere but can't imagine this is a case where my license could be on the line.

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Not to sound nieve but what benefit would an attorney be in the situation? ...

Because you've asked seven questions that none of us here can really answer. Also consider this. Your employer is under no obligation to accept your resignation, particularly if you are currently under investigation, and still might terminate you. And, even if they accept your resignation they are still free to tell any potential future employers that you were under investigation and were allowed to resign in lieu of termination. An attorney would be able to answer these questions and advise you on your best options as to leaving this position under the best circumstances possible.

You might consider reposting this question in the Ask a Nurse Attorney column.

Best wishes as you work through this situation.

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...because some examples of fee structures and other penalties have been posted above and are available online and beyond that none of us really have an idea how commonly these sometimes-serious fines are assessed or what exact situational criteria is used to assess them, but we do know that your violation was not accidental.

:(

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Not to sound nieve but what benefit would an attorney be in the situation? I am not trying to dispute the claim or save my current job. I cannot imagine this is something that would land jail time or anything of that nature. From what I have read, once the compliance officer contacts the individual whose info was accessed and they claim no harm has been done then the investigation more or less stops. Of course I know this gets reported somewhere but can't imagine this is a case where my license could be on the line.

This could be a civil and/or criminal matter. This could also be a matter for the BON on top of any civil or criminal charges. You could also be placed on the OIG exclusion list, thus tremendously reducing your employment options as you will not be hirable at any facility the received federal healthcare funding. If charged and prosecuted this could be made public, which could also be the least of your worries.

You came to an internet forum for advice, from strangers. Strangers or not, I do believe suggesting you consult an attorney is pretty sound advice. If it were me I would certainly be trying to cover my bases for the BIG things that could happen as a result of this act, not trying to compare with other violators and naively thinking I would receive the least amount of punishment for breaking a federal law. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best, but hey I'm just a stranger on the internet.

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Another thing to keep in mind is that even though your friend said they were okay with what you did, they might feel differently when a third party asks them about it. They may not have been comfortable telling you they were not okay with is seeing as how you already took it upon yourself to invade their personal business anyway. So be prepared for that possibility.

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No nastiness. I concur with consulting an attorney, however.

Let me reframe what you did, and how others can and may interpret it, even without applying Federal Law.

You know that robbing a bank is illegal. You rob the bank with a fake gun, and nobody gets hurt. You know that the funds are federally insured, and you only got away with $45,000 anyway, far less than what FDIC insurance covers.

Nobody got hurt, right?

You get caught. You stand in front of the judge and say, "Well, I needed money for my tuition so that I could be a more productive member of society (noble purpose) and get off of public assistance. I knew nobody would get hurt because the depositors are insured. I didn't use a real gun, so that's not really threatening, is it? So I guess if I'm really sorry, I should not be punished, right?"

Wrong. You robbed the bank knowing full well that this was illegal. You did it because you wanted to. It didn't matter if no one got hurt, or if you were sorry after you were caught, or it was for a noble purpose.

I am sorry you did this, because it taints how others look at you. Even if the BON is not notified, people talk. What I would do is exactly what others have suggested---whether you are about to be prosecuted or not---and find out how to make amends. You will never make it right. Your friend, once she/he finds out that there may be a payday involved, may decide their bills could use paying and a nice easy windfall could be just the thing about now.

Your actions can say to some that if you willfully broke a federal law, because you wanted to---what other laws would you break? Read over at Recovery for awhile---I know my heart breaks for them, mistakes made without any harm coming to anyone---yet their lives have derailed entirely because of them.

Please be smart and protect your license and your reputation. This isn't a small thing.

P.S. A friend in nursing school was thrown out for this. He answered a question about the admission of a neighbor. Nothing more. He was immediately terminated from school, and was barred from getting back in. He's fortunate that no further action was taken, because he was not an RN at that time. It prevented him from entering into any other RN school, either. The patient in question did not sue, but could have.

Edited by HomeBound
add a thought

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Because you've asked seven questions that none of us here can really answer. Also consider this. Your employer is under no obligation to accept your resignation, particularly if you are currently under investigation, and still might terminate you. And, even if they accept your resignation they are still free to tell any potential future employers that you were under investigation and were allowed to resign in lieu of termination. An attorney would be able to answer these questions and advise you on your best options as to leaving this position under the best circumstances possible.

You might consider reposting this question in the Ask a Nurse Attorney column.

Best wishes as you work through this situation.

Chare,

What do you mean the employer is not required to accept the resignation?

Employers cannot fire you after you tender resignation.

The employer does have to accept the resignation.

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Obtain your friends permission to access her medical record. Problem solved.

Actually this is not true. In a medical facility, you must have a clinical need to know to access anyone's medical record. Her permission pertains to getting information from her treatment team - presumably verbally. However, accessing the company's medical record system requires their permission as well. If you don't have a clinical need to be in a chart, you best not be in the chart. Period. Curiosity is not a valid reason to be in a chart, even with the patient's permission. The company owns both the chart and the software containing it. Not the patient.

OP, you definitely need a lawyer. Many employers can and do report these types of violations to the BON, primarily because that action protects them if an investigation occurs as to how they handled this law being broken. They have to show they handled this in a serious manner in accordance with policy and law. Zero tolerance is the way for them to go. I say this because I have participated in these decisions.

In addition, you can be held liable for fines that are significant, whether you get reported to the BON or not, whether your friend holds you liable or not. The government as an entity can enact fines for this breach. You state that you "cannot imagine this is a situation where my license could be on the line". This means you are absolutely not recognizing you violated a federal law and aren't absorbing the seriousness of your breach. You can be indicted for this. Will you? Who knows. I think likely not, but that is just a matter of opinion and means nothing. The fees are in the thousands if you are fined and those fines are completely independent from what your friend may be entitled to should he or she decide to change their tune about being no big deal to them. Additionally, your employer, if fined, could seek to recover those funds from you, since their policies, procedures and reaction are not ambiguous. You went rogue and knowingly violated both company policy and federal law. Read that again. This is pretty darn serious. So yes, you could lose your license. Or have sanctions put on it. You could be blacklisted in the medical community. You could be kept from advancing your degree because no school will take you.

I am glad you learned from it. I hope it goes easier on you than the potential. This all may sound very alarmist and I am not trying to frighten you. To be honest, what is done is done and its going to be what it is going to be. Others reading this, particularly new nurses, should pay heed.

Edited by not.done.yet

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