Thursday, March 20, 2014

Cam Newton Surgery Leaked to Media through HIPAA Violation

Those of us in health care have long been aware of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.  The basic premise is that confidential health information can only be shared with entities that the patient agrees to.  
The idea, of course, was to prevent the random sharing of private information with anyone other than who the patient specified.  Basically the idea is to keep private information private…. and that's how it should be!
Basically (read the article in the link above for the complete story) here's what happened.  Cam Newton, for those of you who aren't sports fans, is the quarterback for the NFL's Carolina Panthers.  He's one of the league's premier players and incredibly well  known.  Tuesday, a caller to a sports radio call-in show called in to tell anyone listening that Cam Newton was to undergo ankle surgery on Wednesday.
When asked how he knew of this, since no one else had heard anything about it, the caller stated his wife was a nurse and had told him Newton was on the surgery schedule for Wednesday afternoon.
Neither the Carolina Panthers nor Cam Newton had made any statements about the surgery.  This meant that the caller had committed a major HIPAA infraction.  If his wife is identified, she could be terminated and her employer could be held liable as well.
One of my Top 10 Practice Predictions for 2014 was a greater focus on HIPAA from the federal government.  Something of this magnitude is going to bring an investigation and there may be serious personnel and financial implications.  Private means private.  It's just that simple.  I would highly recommend that doctors discuss this with staff and remind them of the extreme importance of security and compliance.

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