HIPAA Doesn’t Exist For Doctorsby JC, MD | September 15, 2008
Recently a very popular colleague of mine was hospitalized. He happened to be hospitalized at the facility where he works and thus you can imagine he was inundated with visitors and friends wanting to wish him well. Unfortunately, the terms of his hospitalization were emergent and thus he did not have a choice in where he went for treatment. His frequent visitors coming into the room began to hamper his recover and his family was forced to try and enforce privacy rules and HIPAA.
This only worked on the surface. When the hospital was called, they did not reveal that my colleague was in the hospital. They also did not reveal his room number. But upon scouring the hospital and connecting with nurses people started locating his room and once again started dropping by unannounced. Imagine the nurses trying to protect the privacy of the patient from a bunch of doctors wearing white coats!
Ultimately, his family insisted on a premature discharge in order to protect their privacy.
What do you do in this situation? Well it turns out that the physician did not want his colleagues to know about the extent of his condition because he planned to return to practice after recovery. Surely one can appreciate the damage rumors can do to a physician? For example, would you go to see a physician if you knew he had a pre-existing medical condition that might affect your treatment or perhaps affect him during a surgical case?
My colleague actually told me that his family had to scold the nurses because his physician friends who were not on the treatment team were perusing his medical record. This is clearly a HIPAA and privacy violation and should not happen.
While this scenario may exist in the case where a celebrity is hospitalized, it is most problematic when a physician is hospitalized. Unfortunately HIPAA applies to the average everday patient but not to doctors in their own hospitals.
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