The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) may seem unfamiliar to you if you aren’t all too involved in the world of healthcare. But as someone who will surely one day need access to healthcare, it is important to know that your protected health information (commonly abbreviated as PHI) aren’t something that should be left laying around and accessible to just anyone. At least without your consent, no one but you, your healthcare provider, and a few other selected entities should have access to these documents and information. But even with a federal law stating the importance of your PHI and how this shouldn’t be accessible to just anyone, HIPAA violation cases are in fact still very common. These violations range from losing USBs to refusing to provide patients with their own PHI. It is safe to say that HIPAA violation cases do not take a lot of effort and may be as common as any old “accident.”
It has been said that HIPAA violation cases may not always stem from malicious intent. Sometimes it can be just a little dash of forgetfulness but may also be caused by not fully understanding what the HIPAA really means or stands for. Here are a few instances of HIPAA violations that may seem silly at first glance but may have caused much damage and cost thousands and millions of dollars.
Walgreens Work Romance
One HIPAA violation awarded 1.4 million dollars to a woman whose PHI was breached because she had once dated the Walgreen’s pharmacist’s husband. While it may seem like something that can be brushed off as a lighthearted work anecdote to share to your spouse, it has been stated by the woman’s legal counsel that sometimes PHI that is made public may be “stigmatising” and may even prevent one to seek out the proper medical needed.
In a private practice clinic a patient’s HIV testing procedures were unfortunately shared with the rest of the waiting room’s participants. In addition to this, it is possible that this one patient wasn’t the only one with their PHI out in the open. Sometimes something as simple as monitor angles and computer positioning is crucial to how well we work. Sometimes it is crucial to protect the privacy of your patients. This clinic was also advised to change the orientation of some of their computer screens as the previous arrangement had made it easy for some to see their documents and other patients’ files.
Lights, Camera, Lawsuit!
A New York City hospital paid a 2.2 million dollar settlement when it had allowed ABC to film with virtually no restrictions. The show “NY Med” had filmed two patients without their consent and made an environment where protecting the patients’ PHI would be physically impossible.
While at first glance these HIPAA violation cases seem silly, it should be a reminder that there are times when HIPAA violations are indeed done with malicious intent. Phishing, credit card scams, and identity theft are all real crimes that can be committed when the wrong people have access to your PHI. It is crucial for healthcare providers to remember that care should be given not only to the patients’ wounds or illnesses, but their information as well.