Wednesday, February 23, 2011
WHY HIPAA IS IMPORTANT
At work I was responsible for implementing HIPAA and ensuring our company's compliance.
I have never had anything wrong with me that I would be embarrassed to see posted on the internet. I have always had excellent health; I've been very fortunate never to have had an operation, had a disease or been really ill. I never missed work; even in school I had perfect attendance in 11 years; in the third grade I had an ear infection and stayed home. As children, we never had the advantage of going to doctors, dentists or eye doctors. As a child I saw a doctor twice. However, I am a "preventive maintenance" gal and I have all the yearly tests and annual physical.
I WILL NOT, however, go to a doctor in Washington Court House and would not willingly go to the hospital here. When I had my accident in 1995, I was taken there, much to my regret. I bear the results of the ER doctor's incompetence.
When I was a child, the mother of one of my classmates, did wallpapering as well as working at the hospital. She was at our house wallpapering (never forgotten those large, red roses) and she and my mother were talking. I overheard her tell my mother about a farmer who had an embarrassing accident and they were both laughing about the details. The farmer had been working in the field and needed to relieve himself; as he was alone, he decided to use the field. As he squatted down, he was impaled by a cornstalk. He had to walk back to the house because he could not drive. Although I was a child, I knew it was wrong for the wallpaperer to divulge that information and for my mother and her to be having a great laugh at his expense. I told my mother that she shouldn't be allowed to tell those kind of things and I said that I would NEVER go to that hospital. One of my sisters-in-law had family members who worked at the hospital and we often heard "juicy" gossip, which only reinforced my resolve not to use the hospital or any doctors in town.
My mother was going to a local doctor and the doctor's nurse was the cousin of one of my sisters-in-law. My mother's blood pressure was very high and was very worrisome to the doctor, my mother and to me. My brother and his wife lived in Dayton and when they would come to visit for the weekend, they would spend one day in Bloomingburg with her family and one day with us. One day, during a visit, my brother began telling my mother she needed to be more careful about her blood pressure. My mother hadn't shared the information about her blood pressure with any of the family except for myself. Mother told him she didn't know what he was talking about. He told her that his wife's cousin had warned them about her dangerous levels. Mother was furious and told my brother that the cousin had no right to be talking about that. He defended the nurse by saying she only did it because she cared.
On Monday, I went to the doctor's office and told the doctor about it and told her she needed to fire the nurse. The doctor said she didn't think it was that serious. I told her, "I need my mother's records because she will never be back here again!" The doctor said that I was "making a mountain out of a mole hill" and that she wasn't going to give me my mother's records. I told her that I was going to my attorney to see what recourse we had. My attorney called the doctor and we had the records that same day.
My doctors and hospital are all out-of-town. Do I think that people at those places don't gossip? Of course I know they do, but they also only know me as a PATIENT, not as a friend, neighbor or family!
I am the power-of-attorney for my late friend's husband and he was taken to the hospital from the nursing home. His condition was not life-threatening. As we were waiting, a young woman was rushed into the only room in the ER with a door; all the other patients were in draped areas. Within a few minutes, I saw someone I knew who works at the Victim Witness Program rush into the room. I realized that the woman who had been brought in was either a rape or domestic violence victim. Soon the police arrived. The nurse's station was directly across from the cubicle where we were seated. The doctor and nurse were in the station, had left the door open, and I could hear their discussion about the victim. I arose, went to the station and asked, "Do you realize that I now know that the gal in there is a rape victim?" The doctor asked, "How would you know that?" I told them the chain of events I had witnessed and then heard THEM discussing the case because they hadn't closed the door. I finished by saying, "And I don't have the RIGHT TO KNOW these things; you are in violation of HIPAA rules!" I told them they were also very unprofessional in the manner they spoke about the woman. They never even offered an apology. I sent a letter of complaint to the Hospital Board and a copy to Victim Witness.
HIPAA is important.