One out of every five patients disagreed or were neutral when asked if they "never overheard staff discuss other patients".
How does it happen? I can think of many examples during health care encounters with my family over the past year.
It happens in the physician office when there aren't doors - like an orthopedic office, and at the pediatrician where the office walls aren't insulated to absorb sound.
It happens when you share a room with three other people (in a rehab environment).
When you pick up your prescription and they repeat the names of your medications at the pharmacy desk.
And in the hospital hallways when you walk through to see your family member.
But what happens when the other patient hears private information - are they held to the HIPPA laws?
No, according to the Health and Human Services Health Information Privacy,only the entities listed below can be held accountable for violating HIPPA laws.
- Health Plans, including health insurance companies, HMOs, company health plans, and certain government programs that pay for health care, such as Medicare and Medicaid.
- Most Health Care Providers—those that conduct certain business electronically, such as electronically billing your health insurance—including most doctors, clinics, hospitals, psychologists, chiropractors, nursing homes, pharmacies, and dentists.
- Health Care Clearinghouses—entities that process nonstandard health information they receive from another entity into a standard (i.e., standard electronic format or data content), or vice versa.
If you "win" a HIPPA lawsuit, you do not receive any compensation. According to the AMA website -" While HIPAA protects the health information of individuals, it does not create a private cause of action for those aggrieved (65 FR 82566). State law, however, may provide other theories of liability."
There are several things we can do in order to safeguard not only our privacy but others as well:
1. Tell the health care provider if their voice is too loud, many times they may not realize the projection of their own voice can be heard by others.
2. Use a signal, such as a hand gesture, to let them know their voice is too loud or you can hear them from across the room.
3. Ask to be moved to another location, room so you can have privacy
4. Leave the room temporarily, if possible, when another patient is getting care to avoid the possibility of hearing their information.
5. Talk to a manager and explain the circumstances and let them know your privacy concerns.
6. If you do hear something, start humming so you can replace the other sounds.
What do you do when you are in these situations?
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