Amy’s Life in Brief

HIPAA (or a source of fear in the workplace)
August 22, 2008, 1:17 am
Filed under: job, patient privacy, social work, worries | Tags: , ,

So, one of the biggest thing going on at work right now is a crack down on HIPAA violations. I think on a whole HIPAA is a good thing, but it seems that there are many interpretations of it. Essentially, what we’ve been told is that they will be doing audits of our computer usage and if it is determined that we accessed patient information inappropriately, we will be fired. The termination will be immediate and we will not be given an opportunity to explain. In fact we will not even be told which case it was we accessed because that in itself would be a HIPAA violation.

So now I am having high anxiety about all of this. When I was being trained on the computer system, we were asked to look at a couple patient records. The trainer asked, “Does anyone know this person?” We didn’t and then she had us go through all of the aspects of the system. So, now I’m thinking, “Oh my god! What if my audit shows that case? I’m going to get fired because my trainer was an idiot and I didn’t know any better??”

And the other issue I have with all of this is that the whole privacy thing in our hospital seems to be kind of a joke. They are acting as if they are really cracking down, yet most of the rooms are not private. So, often we and other medical staff are talking to patients about their personal, private issues while their roommate listens (potentially).

Then, when a VIP person is a patient, everyone knows because a particular person from the administration office will be seen up on the floor with a large bouquet of flowers. My thought is always, “How do they know that the VIP is in the hospital?” I doubt that they called the president of the hospital after they called 911 or whatever. So, obviously I think there are some HIPAA violations there.

So, that’s my source of anxiety…that I’m going to get terminated for something that will look HORRIBLE on my job record. At least when I worked for the state, we had a form if we accidently accessed a case that we shouldn’t have, accidently. I doubt that they would offer that here. There would probably be a liability and they don’t want a record of it.

Aagh! HIPAA!


3 Comments so far
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Wow, that is horrible! It does not seem fair to hold you so strictly to procedures that were explained so poorly. You might consider contacting an employment lawyer about the fairness of all of this should they threaten your job. If your own trainer led you in behavior that could later cause you to lose your position, the way they handled their policy was inconsistent to say the least.

Comment by bluejeansocialwork


My immediate thought is that some high profile person felt there was a HIPAA violation on their own records and now the hospital is acting retro-actively. I could be way off base, but this would seem to be the case. The fact that they’re firing without even giving you a chance to explain is highly suspect.

Comment by Reas

Well, apparently, the recent firings were due to someone filing a HIPAA complaint. There were also 2 firings where the people accessed a family member’s record. My co-workers are telling me to chill out…that they’re just trying to get people thinking about whether or not they should be looking at a record. We’re about to go to completely electronic charting, so in about a month and half a person could have access to all the nursing notes, everything. And the Joint Commission people are coming soon. But, now I will NOT see a patient unless someone has written an order for me to do so. Before, we would have a nurse grab us and say, “Wow! You really need to go in and talk to this family. They’re really having trouble with xyz.” Not doing that anymore, not unless they write an order right then! And we had been told getting verbal consents for continuity of care (things that making referrals to Senior & Disability Services and other resources) was OK. I’m not doing that anymore either. I’ll be carrying around a stack of consents everywhere I go!

Comment by oregonamy1972

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