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Legal Speak

Respecting Resident Privacy

Published April 10, 2013 9:13 AM by Tony DeWitt
Every day, in nearly every city in the country, healthcare workers routinely violate the HIPAA privacy rules. They do it when they come home and tell stories about what they did at work that day. Some of the stories are just "too good not to tell," and as a result, they're shared with friends, family, and sometimes on Facebook.

Even if you don't reveal a resident's name, if you disclose on public social media sites the details of resident care, you're violating the resident's privacy, your employer's work rules, and more likely than not, state law regarding medical confidentiality. You're also putting your professional license at risk.

As an attorney, people tell me stories all the time. Some of them are really too good not to share, but even as much as I might like to, I don't share them. As an attorney I have a sacred trust to uphold when it comes to protecting my clients, even if it's only from laughter and ridicule.

Recently a nurse I'm acquainted with told a story about a patient who was confused. It was indeed the kind of funny that would send a seasoned Hollywood writer running for a pen to write it down. The communication was not made in private. She was not asking for legal advice. She was, in my opinion, just poking fun at a poor old woman who didn't understand the meaning of a few key words.

When her story was over I thought immediately that I had to share it, and then I thought better of it.

The next time a clinician starts to tell you a funny patient story, do her a favor. Remind her that she's playing with fire.  Even if the employer doesn't discipline her, the family doesn't find out, and the HIPAA compliance people don't come after her, she's violating her professional ethics by talking about residents. You might even be saving her nursing license in the bargain.

Read more articles on privacy:

Social Networking Gone Bad

Risk Assessment & HIPAA

Return to ADVANCE for Long-Term Care Mangement Homepage

 

posted by Tony DeWitt

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About this Blog


    A.L. "Tony" DeWitt, RRT, CRT, JD, FAARC
    Occupation: Attorney
    Setting: Jefferson City, Mo.
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