Examples of HIPAA Privacy Violations – More HIPAA Lawsuits Coming?

Posted on June 21, 2006 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I found a list of a number of Privacy Violations. The list is quite outdated since it’s latest case was in 2002, but I thought that many of the examples could just as easily apply today. In fact, with computers it makes many of the cases much easier to accomplish and easier to track misdoing. Does that mean we are going to have more HIPAA lawsuits coming? I think it’s only just a matter of time.

Does EMR affect this? Probably not directly, but indirectly many of these cases could be related to your use of an EMR system.

Here’s 2 examples that I found quite interesting from the HIPAA privacy violations article:

# A psychiatrist from New Hampshire was fined $1,000 for repeatedly looking at the medical records of an acquaintance without permission. Because there was no state law making it a crime to breach the confidentiality of medical records, the case was brought under a law against misusing a computer. (“Psychiatrist Convicted of Snooping in Records,” The Associated Press State & Local Wire, May 5, 1999)

# A jury in Waukesha, Wisconsin, found that an emergency medical technician (EMT) invaded the privacy of an overdose patient when she told the patient’s co-worker about the overdose. The co-worker then told nurses at West Allis Memorial Hospital, where both she and the patient were nurses. The EMT claimed that she called the patient’s co-worker out of concern for the patient. The jury, however, found that regardless of her intentions, the EMT had no right to disclose confidential and sensitive medical information, and directed the EMT and her employer to pay $3,000 for the invasion of privacy. (L. Sink, “Jurors Decide Patient Privacy Was Invaded,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 9, 2002)

My biggest comfort with HIPAA is that it doesn’t seem like they are really out headhunting. If you are an honest person who makes a bad choice then HIPAA is kinder to you then those that blatantly misuse the information. However, in our sue happy world that might be changing.