HIPAA regulations are regulations which protect the confidentiality of medical information. The stakeholders including the insurance companies can face criminal liabilities for releasing such vital information. Employees who violate the regulations face a risk of being imprisoned. Violations of HIPAA can occur in different ways. The case discussed below elaborates one way in which HIPAA violations can occur.
Gunn v. Sound Shore Medical Center
Donna Gun resided from New York, and he used to attend sessions for cardiac physical therapy in a hospital. In the session, she claimed that she got an injury on a treadmill. She brought her case before the court so that she could receive compensation or damages. In her case, she made a request to the judge. In her request, she demanded that the judge should order the defendant hospital to release the names of patients who witnessed the incident (Justia.com, 2004). In their defense, the hospital cited HIPAA regulations. In their argument, they stated that releasing the names of patients would violate the HIPAA. The hospital refused to release the name of the patients and the judge dismissed the case. In his ruling, the judge argued that disclosing the name of patients would violate the HIPAA. The judge stated that releasing the names would be a breach of the physician to patient privilege.
Why Confidentiality Is Important
A patient has the right to confidentiality. Doctors have to maintain complete confidentiality regarding a patient treatment and diagnosis. Doctors should only share the medical records with the fellow health professionals.
Confidentiality helps in preventing individuals from trauma which may result from the spread of information relating to their health (Ministry Of Ethics). For example, if a patient tests HIV positive and the doctor discloses the information, the patients may face intimidation from people who know them. The results of the trauma could be very injurious to the patient. The patient can face self denial as well as intimidation.
On the other hand, patient confidentiality plays a key role in maintain trust between a doctor and a patient. Doctors, who maintain a high level of confidentiality, are more likely to have long term customers. On the other hand, the patients tend to develop some form of trust and confidence on the doctor, and this boosts patient to doctor relationship (Ministry Of Ethics). Patients are likely to raise all the health issues affecting them to a doctor who maintains confidentiality. This promotes service delivery.
Confidentiality reduces the liabilities of a doctor. A doctor who breaches the rule of confidentiality faces the risk of facing liabilities. Maintain confidentiality will reduce the possibility of such liabilities occurring to a doctor.
Consequence of Breach of Confidentiality
Whenever the doctors breach the confidentiality of a patient by releasing the information to the public, the patient has the right to sue. It is deemed that the doctor has the contractual obligation to maintain the confidentiality (Ministry Of Ethics). Breach of confidentiality means a breach of contract. As a result, the patient has the right to sue for breach of contract. If the patient feels that the doctor has breached the principle of confidentiality, he can sue and get damages. Criminal proceedings can also arise from the breach of confidentiality (Ministry Of Ethics). In this case, it can lead to jail. The doctor can also face a disciplinary action for breaching the principle of confidentiality.
The Role of An Individual In Preventing HIPAA Violations
Individuals have a role to play in preventing HIPAA violations. Individuals should understand their rights clearly. They should take a keen note on any HIPAA violations. Individuals need to understand the right procedures to follow in pursuant of justice regarding the HIPAA violations. They need to raise their voice and seek justice.
- Retrieved December 4, 2013, from Justia.com: http://law.justia.com/cases/new-york/appellate-division-second-department/2004/2004-01541.html
- Ministry Of Ethics. (n.d.). CONSEQUENCES OF BREACHING CONFIDENTIALITY. Retrieved December 4, 2013, from http://ministryofethics.co.uk/index.php?p=6&q=7