Thursday, September 24, 2015

HIPAA Part 2

Time for our 2nd chapter of the HIPAA saga.  As we left it last time, George Bush signed the High Tech Act into effect in 2002 and you would have thought that was the end of government intervention into our protected health information (PHI).  But that would be too easy.  The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has continued to tinker with the privacy portion of HIPAA over the last 13 years, to the point that Congress felt obligated to pass the Omnibus Bill in 2013 which was signed into law by President Obama personal healthcare information.  So we are very restricted on who we can give out PHI to including even spouses, children and parents.  For example, we had a patient call up a few weekends ago with the need for antibiotic medication for a dental infection.  She was not feeling well enough to drive down to the office so we could dispense her the medication and she wanted to send her husband or her sister, who lives close by, to pick up the antibiotics and pain medication.  Unfortunately, since we did not have a signed HIPAA release for her to either her spouse or sister we could not dispense the medications for her.  In addition new FDA restrictions do not allow us to call in the medications to a pharmacy without a signed release form.  All the prescriptions now have to be handwritten out by the prescriber completely and picked up by the patient when the pharmacy does not have a signed release on file, HIPAA again.  Fortunately, she was eventually able to have someone drive her here to pick up her medications, but what a mess!  Does it really need to be this complex? Or is there some reasonable ground that we could offer privacy, but reasonableness.  By the way, the official list of definitions in the Omnibus bill is almost 20 pages long and we do now currently in our office have 14 different signature forms for your protected health information storage and dissemination requests.  As the definition of family, that government form is over 2 pages long.  If this seems like overkill, it probably is.  But leave it to the government to protect your personal identification just like they did for the over 20 million Federal employees that had their information hacked from Federal storage.  The take away message must be protect yourself as best you can and hope for the best.  After all, as my father told me, we live in a free country, not necessarily a fair one. 

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