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Was This a HIPAA Violation?

Posted

Specializes in PCU / Telemetry. Has 9 years experience.

So I have a friend on Facebook (lets call her Jane) who posts a status message regarding how people should not be judgmental of people that receive public assistance, not everyone that receives it is lazy, etc. Anyway, several people did comment with their own stories and what have you, then I happen to notice that one of Jane's friends pipes in with her related comment and then states "... and were u in the ER in [the local hospital]?? I thought I saw a name that looked like yours..." I was a little taken aback by this. I texted Jane to ask her if her friend is a health care worker and she replied that she is. I told Jane what she said on Facebook and told her that I thought it was inappropriate. Jane happens to have a chronic health condition that if not managed well with regular medicine lands her in the hospital for treatment. However, she is very open about her condition and how she lives with it, but that is not the issue. Nowhere in her recent posts did she mention that she had been to the ER recently (I knew about it already since we work together). It just did not seem right that this friend of hers put it out there on a public forum that Jane might have been in the ER and got this knowledge through the census. Maybe I am wrong in my thinking? Just curious to know.

Thoughts?

Orange Tree

Specializes in Medical Surgical Orthopedic.

"...she is very open about her condition and how she lives with it, but that is not the issue."

I think that is the issue. I find it hard to see any wrongdoing here. It sounds like Jane initiated a personal discussion with her friends (although in a semi-public forum). The comment was vague and conversational, and I don't see any indication that Jane had a problem with it.

Caffeine_IV

Specializes in LTC, med/surg, hospice. Has 7 years experience.

I guess it could be but if Jane is not upset..I wouldn't waste my emotion on it.

Unless this patient had given the poster permission to post what she did, the poster is in violation of HIPAA regulations. Just because a person is open about health problems, this does not mean thatt she has given blanket authorization to any health care worker to post anything about her on a board. She cannot even ask if the woman was in her ER, she is revealing confidential, protected information.

GrannyRN65

Actually, my read, especially based on recently publicized cases, is that this is very clearly a HIPAA violation. If I am reading you correctly, Jane's friend posted this on a page that could be seen by other people. Had she said it to Jane in a private conversation, even that would have been marginal, but to say it in a public or semi-public forum is not even marginal. I just went through our hospital's training on this and here is a hypothetical case that was described as a violation: A health care worker sees the son of a co-worker in the emergency room, shortly after encounters his mother, the co-worker and tells her she has seen him there. Sounds inoccuous, but it was labeled a violation.

The basic rule is this: You may not access any information beyond what you need to know to care for the patients for whom you are caring. And if you do come into posession of such information by accident, you may not act on it in any way or pass it on in any way except as required for the care of the patient. Period.

And here's another tip: Be very darn careful about what you put on social networking sites. If, for example a supervisor at that hospital is on Jane's friend list, and saw what the worker posted she would likely be fired for it and would have little recourse.

nurse0520

Has 1 years experience.

It would be a HIPAA violation if a healthcare worker in that facility she was seen at posted it on facebook (but then it could be hard to prove also because they put it in question form)

thmpr

Specializes in ED. Has 19 years experience.

Jane's friend sounds like a knucklehead. Even if Jane brings up the specific hospital visit and chooses to discuss it on her own volition, it is still inappropriate for a healthcare worker to disclose that they were there -especially in this “neener neener” context. Jane must first give consent.

nursel56

Specializes in Peds/outpatient FP,derm,allergy/private duty. Has 45 years experience.

Some HIPAA stuff is far-fetched these days, but Jane's friend certainly overstepped with that question! It doesn't matter if Jane is open with her condition or not. It may even have been OK if the friend was off-duty and saw Jane in the waiting room, but info a person is made aware of as a consequence of their employment in a facility should not be publicly aired.

Ruby Vee, BSN

Specializes in CCU, SICU, CVSICU, Precepting & Teaching. Has 40 years experience.

it's not a hipaa violation of the person who posted knew about jane's er visit because jane told her about it. but it doesn't sound as if that was the case. if she knew about it because of her work in the hospital and talked about it or wrote about it to anyone -- including, perhaps jane -- that was a hipaa violation.

PacoUSA, BSN, RN

Specializes in PCU / Telemetry. Has 9 years experience.

For the record, Jane had not told her friend about her ER visit, and Jane was actually surprised that the friend would ask about it in a comment like that among 4 other people she did not know.

nurse grace RN, BSN

Specializes in med/surg, TELE,CM, clinica[ documentation. Has 15 years experience.

If she did it where I work she would be suspended or even at risk of losing her job, it is a Hippa violation . and should not be brought up in a public situation.

Yup, definitely a violation. Sheesh, that health care worker needs a refresher course on the meaning of the law....

canesdukegirl, BSN, RN

Specializes in Trauma Surgery, Nursing Management. Has 14 years experience.

This was most definitely a HIPAA violation.

For the record, Jane had not told her friend about her ER visit, and Jane was actually surprised that the friend would ask about it in a comment like that among 4 other people she did not know.

Did Jane respond to her friend's comment?

PacoUSA, BSN, RN

Specializes in PCU / Telemetry. Has 9 years experience.

Did Jane respond to her friend's comment?

Not on Facebook from what I have noticed. Well, not directly to the friend's comment that is, she only replied to other people instead. Perhaps in private she may have mentioned something but I have not been updated to that effect.