Can We Start Being Human?

Posted on August 19, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the 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 and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Excuse a moment of somewhat personal commentary, but this story in the New York Times has been making the rounds. Basically, the boards full of smiling babies in a doctor’s office are considered a privacy violation. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

Under the law, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, baby photos are a type of protected health information, no less than a medical chart, birth date or Social Security number, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Even if a parent sends in the photo, it is considered private unless the parent also sends written authorization for its posting, which almost no one does.

When I read stories like this, I ask myself “Have we lost all common sense? Can’t we be human?” I get how privacy is important. I’ve written this blog for 9 years and so I know the consequences of HIPAA breaches. Although, I think Dr. Moritz covers my view really well:

“I think we have to have some common sense with this HIPAA business,” Dr. Moritz continued. “To leave medical records open to the public, to throw lab results in the garbage without shredding them, that makes sense” to prohibit. “But if somebody wants to post a picture of something that’s been going on for a millennium and is a tradition, it seems strange to me not to do that,” he said.

I know there are ways to comply with the law and preserve the baby board. Have the parents sign a release form when they drop off the picture. I think you could also add this note in your HIPAA notice that the patient signs before their first visit. However, I think this is missing the point. Isn’t it common sense that someone who sends a picture of their baby to the office isn’t afraid of having that picture shared?

Certainly this change is not life or death stuff. Although, I think the baby boards did provide some humanity to an otherwise sterile office. However, I hate the trend of where this leads. In far too many things we can’t be human anymore. Common sense is missing in so many areas of life and instead of giving people the benefit of the doubt we’re too easy to condemn people who had no ill intent.

I realize there are bad people out there that do bad things. However, they’re the minority and its sad when the minority is able to have such an impact on the majority.