Author Question: Australian DJs and HIPAA

Remember the nurse who committed suicide in the wake of the Australian radio DJ’s that posed as the Queen of England to get the medical staff to disclose private details of the Duchess?

I totally get, as a nurse, why she made that choice. 

Every day, nurses face critical choices that can have dire consequences. Most often, I can say from being in this field for almost 20 years, that 99% of the time, medical people DO NOT have ill intentions toward their patients. They are not maliciously trying to harm people. Do mistakes happen . . . yes. But usually it is the result of a system wide problem.

This nurse that patched through the radio personality posing as the Queen of England probably was thinking, “Wow, the Queen! I better patch her through post haste. I wouldn’t want to do anything to upset the monarchy.” 

She may have been star-struck– I don’t know. But we don’t ask for credentials over the phone. If you say your Britney Spears’s sister– why should I doubt you?

I can understand the horror this nurse must have felt when she learned of the prank. I know she likely feared for her job. I know she likely felt horrified that that one simple action of transferring a phone call led to mass attention being drawn her way. 

Sadly, since I don’t know this nurse personally and am only guessing, this may have been the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. 

HIPAA issues/violations can have dire consequences for the healthcare provider. We can lose our jobs.

In short, HIPAA is a set of laws designed to protect patient’s privacy. I’ve done a series on HIPAA that you can find here:

http://jordynredwood.blogspot.com/2011/12/author-beware-law-hipaa-part-13.html

http://jordynredwood.blogspot.com/2011/12/author-beware-law-hipaa-part-23.html

http://jordynredwood.blogspot.com/2011/12/author-beware-law-hipaa-33.html

http://jordynredwood.blogspot.com/2012/11/hipaa-and-law-enforcement.html

However, I recently got an author’s question that kind of took a new spin so I thought I’d cover it here.

Glenda asks:
  
In the novel I’m writing (my first), I have a young mother of a four-year-old who is in a coma because of an automobile accident hundreds of miles away from her home.  There are no other next of kin other than the child.  How can a minister who’s trying to help solve a mystery get more information about her condition? Who can the doctor disclose her condition to?  What information can be disclosed under HIPAA?  If you would address that in one of your future blogs, I would greatly appreciate it.  I’ve read through a lot of information but haven’t seen anything that addresses a situation such as this. Thank you so much!

Jordyn Says:

I think it will be hard for this minister to get information unless he became the appointed legal guardian over her (since she’s incapacitated and he’s caring for her son and they can’t find any other family.) This might be a better question to run by a lawyer– how could he become her legal guardian? The hospital is going to want someone they can go to. If he served that way— they would release info to him. Likely, he’d have to fill out a request through the medical records department.


In lieu of that– likely what he would be told would be the condition. Grave, Critical, Poor, Fair, Stable, Good.– something along those lines without specific information. 

In follow-up Glenda did ask her son-in-law who is a lawyer this question and here is her information after that consultation.

Glenda says:

My attorney son-in-law said that the minister would have to go before a judge to be a guardian ad litem (in South Carolina at least) in order to get medical information on the mother and to make decisions for the child while the mother was unable to do so.  Thanks for your advice!



My pleasure, Glenda. And best of luck with this novel. 

******************************************************************************

Glenda Manus recently retired after teaching 30 years in an elementary school. Her love of reading good books prompted her to try and write one of her own. Though book writing is a challenge (Amen, sister!) she feels God is with her on the journey.
 

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