HIPAA Privacy Rule & Patient Confidentiality
Marijke Durning | NursingLink
Consequences of Violating the HIPAA Privacy Rule
We know that nurses can – and have been – fired for violating the privacy rule, but this is also considered a crime, punishable by law. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, anyone who knowingly violates the HIPPA Privacy Rule may be fined and/or go to prison. Such violations are prosecuted by the Department of Justice.
If the violation was to knowingly obtain or disclose identifiable information, you may be fined as much as $50,000 and sentenced up to one year in prison. If the violation involves wrongful conduct and false pretences, the fine may be as much as $100,000 and a prison term of up to five years. Finally, if the violation was done in order to sell or transfer identifiable health information or for malicious intent, the fine may go up to $250,000 and prison time may go as high as 10 years.
In 2008, an unidentified nurse found out the hard way about the third level charge. She was arrested for obtaining information about a patient who was involved in a lawsuit with her husband. Her husband used this information to try to intimidate the patient into dropping the lawsuit. According to this article, Staff Nurse Faces Jail Time for HIPAA Violations, she was waiting to hear her fate – which may be up to 10 years in prison.
To some, the HIPAA Privacy Act and its repercussions may seem too strict, but the exposure of someone’s private health information can ruin someone’s livelihood, affect their family relationships, and change the course of their life. So, as funny as that story at work may be, as unusual as the patient you had may be, and no matter how tempting it is to share your day, think twice about what you are sharing.
Ask yourself, is it worth the risk?