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Seasoned with Sage
HIPAA: One Button and You're Caught

A nurse never wants to face a HIPAA violation.

I've never experienced the ramifications of such a violation personally, but I have seen the aftermath when others have been suspected.

Often the violation stems from one of man's greatest assets: curiosity.  We're geared for acquiring knowledge; yet some things we might be better off being unaware of completely.

Once on the unit I was working, a staff member reported their electronic identification and password as stolen. During the time it was missing, the ID and password were used to access the records of a patient staying at the hospital.

Soon, Corporate Compliance contacted the nurse manager of this staff member's unit.  A suspected breach of confidentiality had already been reported, without even the manager or the staff member's knowledge, or anyone else on the unit reporting it.  How? you might ask.

In this particular case audit logs allowed technical support services to track who had accessed this patient's records.  Should the logs detect someone having accessed the information that was not directly connected to the patient (meaning a provider, nurses or assistants on that particular unit the patient is on, etc), these support staff members can re-trace the access of this record right down to the computer the user was utilizing at the time of the login to see if they truly should have been accessing it.

No reporting, no finger pointing: They simply punch a button and you're caught!  Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy doesn't it?

Suffice it to say, when a hospital tells you not to access records that do not pertain to your immediate patients on your unit, (even if they are someone you know, even your own child) do what they say!  If you need that information, chances are someone will contact you shortly.

But, what about all of you?  Have any of you ever had a run in with HIPAA or Corporate Compliance?

Read more Seasoned with Sage articles

6 Responses to “HIPAA: One Button and You’re Caught”

  1. Anne – nursing prof w/a heart Says:

    I haven’t had a run in but recently faced a dilemma. I overheard 2 medical students (one a very close friend and neighbor) discussing patients on the patio during a cookout. They didn’t use the patient names but did use the room numbers and other personal info – It was easy enough to identify the patients, one of whom is another friend of mine (the med students wouldn’t have known this) whose cause of injury was so unusual and other info was so specific that I knew immediately about whom they spoke. I plan to confront my neighbor and also send the med school Dean and hospital admin a note-without identifying the med students. I would be interested to know what others think about this plan.

  2. Jane Vanover Says:

    Yes, I experienced a HIPPA Violation of my own information by my boss, work comp dr., and all of dayshift. I was going to print out the “Need to Know” Hippa sheet, and write on the top. “All of those who attented the inservice on Jane’s back, please sign here!” I was given all my information by the dayshift charge nurse, who was standing around dayshift peers, as I was walking in, with my night shift peers. IT WAS A NIGHTMARE! But, I did not cry. They all knew all the meds I was taking, down to what my catscan had said, and the recomendations the dr., had given. Who, by the way, NEVER told me, himself. I reported it. But, it did little good. The damage was done. It affected my job, and my life. I hope no-one has to go through what I did.

  3. Jane Vanover Says:

    As, for what you overheard Anne, YES, I think you should definately report it, as you have outlined! People need to think, before they speak. And, one never knows who knows who, or how it can affect that person!

  4. Amy Says:

    I don’t agree that you need to contact the school. I believe you should have confronted them right there. That way it would have had real educational value. They would have seen clearly how easy it is to give information away that isn’t anybody’s business. But on that note, healthcare workers discuss their jobs with their peers just like everybody else does. They didn’t use the patients names and if you hadn’t already know them and the problems they were having you may not have given it a second thought.

  5. bryn Says:

    Confidentiality essential, but accidents happen, we talk about our work and patients with colleaugues often outside the work place. I hope people don’t lose their jobs for accidental slip ups.
    I remember one time when a student/patient of mine fell skiing and was helicoptered to hospital. He had a broekn tibia. The school nurse was with him. A teacher asked the nurse what was wrong, and she replied she couldn’t say. The teacher phoned me and I said he had a broken tibia. We live in a boarding school, so the teachers will not only be seeing him with a big cast, but also living with and helping the affected student.
    I wonder if theoretically I broke confidentiality, but don’t really give a damn in this case as I believe in common sense.
    In another case I had to refuse parents access to their childs health records, they were especially requesting sexual health records. This is an absolute no go area.

  6. Lisa Says:

    I had an interesting thing happen to me recently. I was assigned a patient that because of his problems, I was the only one on the unit that could take care of him. During our conversation, which included personal stuff like how long I’d been a nurse, how I moved to the area, what my husband did for a living (relevant to how I moved to area), he asked what company my husband worked for. When I told him, he told me he owned the company…..boy did I feel awkward. I did report this immediately to my charge nurse and the nursing supervisor. Both didn’t see any problem with me taking care of the patient. I asked the patient if he was OK with me taking care of him and he was OK with it. Anyway, before the end of the shift, he read me the response from the president of the company about what kind of employee my husband was!!!!! He spoke to me about projects my husband was working on also. On my way home, my husband calls me saying people at the plant were coming up to him asking him if he knew his wife was the owner’s nurse that night!!!!This guy had been very active with his Blackberry that night. Kind of a reverse-HIPPA situation.. I almost felt violated.

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