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HIPAA Privacy Rule & Patient Confidentiality

HIPAA Privacy Rule & Patient Confidentiality

Marijke Durning | NursingLink

Unless you work for the CIA or Secret Service, it’s hard to imagine a job where you aren’t able to talk about your work day.

Except nursing.

Sure, most of us have talked about an interesting patient case, or shared that funny cafeteria story with friends and family. However, talking about your day and giving out specific information are two different issues, and in nursing, there are strict limits as to what kind of information you can share – if any – about people or cases you’re working on.

HIPAA & Patient Confidentiality

Patient confidentiality is a huge issue in healthcare. So big, that in 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was passed in an effort to make the healthcare system more efficient and available for Americans with health insurance. From HIPAA came the HIPAA Privacy Rule, which most people refer to as just plain HIPAA. The privacy rule was needed because of the ever-expanding reach of technology and the ease of transmitting confidential patient information between people and facilities.

Patient confidentiality is one of the first principles aspiring nurses learn upon entering nursing school. Some of the basic rules include:

• Do not discuss a patient with anyone not directly related to the patient’s medical care
• Do not discuss a patient’s progress with anyone but the patient, without express permission from the patient or the legal guardian
• Do not tell friends, family, or acquaintances about your patients in any way that they may be identified
• Do not discuss a patient’s case, even with a colleague, if you are in an area where the conversation may be overheard (such as on a bus, in the cafeteria, etc.)
• Do not read a chart or patient information belonging to someone who you are not caring for

The HIPAA Privacy Rule applies to those who work in:

• Health plans (insurance companies, HMOs, etc)
• Healthcare providers (anyone who provides any type of medical or health service)
• Healthcare clearinghouses (such as billing services)

Protected information may not be shared with anyone who is not directly working with the patient without the patient’s (or legal guardian’s) express permission. This includes:

• Past and present health information (mental or physical)
• Future physical or mental health information (prognosis)

Simple, right? Don’t talk to anyone about your patients unless it is appropriate. End of story.

But if the rules are so simple, why are nurses getting fired because they violated the HIPAA Privacy Rule?

Next: HIPAA Violations in the Media >>

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