Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Column/Comment: HIPAA Headache

Continuing the trend (are two articles a trend?) of articles reflecting on HIPAA's first year, the Times Reporter of Ohio has a column/comment on HIPAA and its effects.

HIPAA headache: Law protects confidentiality, but limits access
By RYAN KARP, T-R Staff Writer

It’s been more than a year since the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act has gone into effect and area medical service providers have felt the effects of it in different ways.

Possibly as a result of hundreds, maybe thousands, of hours of behind the scenes work in preparing for HIPAA, patients seem to appreciate the new privacy laws, said Carey Gardner, community relations director at Union Hospital in Dover.

For Smith Ambulance, which services Tuscarawas County, all the extra paperwork HIPAA has created is a real pain. But Bob Smith, owner and president of the ambulance service, said most people seem to be in favor of stricter confidentiality.


One of the biggest challenges the hospital faced was a new feature HIPAA offered: giving patients the choice to opt out of the hospital directory.

If a patient chooses to opt out of the directory, employees are not permitted to release any information about that patient, not even to family members.

“Their right to privacy trumps everybody,” said Gardner.

However, he said about 95 percent of patients do opt to be in the directory.


The law says they must give each patient a form detailing their HIPAA rights, although Sholtz wondered if many people outside the medical community actually knows what HIPAA is.

“They don’t have a clue,” said Sholtz. “I bet nobody reads it,” Sholtz said, adding he tries to break the law down in simpler terms to people.


HIPAA is so far reaching that Thorn said maybe it created some safeguards that aren’t necessary.

For example, parents of a college student who is under a doctor’s care at an out-of-area school are not necessarily entitled to freely discuss the student’s injuries or illness with the doctor without the consent of the student despite the fact that they’re paying the bills...."

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