Do Not Make HIPAA Violations Your Personal Courtroom Drama

Article Categories: Jobs & Legal and Ethics

HIPAA violations are the unauthorized sharing of patient health information in ANY form to others who are not directly caring for the patient. It is a direct violation of a patient's privacy and it is a breach of confidentiality. It is certainly a serious issue, to the extent that some cases would be great inspiration for a courtroom drama movie. As a CNA, you do not want to be part of this drama!

Here are some interesting facts for you:

1. A breach of patient confidentiality happens every 62.5 hours.

2. More than half of confidentiality breaches are related to disclosure of patient information to personnel not directly related to the patient’s clinical care.

3. An estimated 46.7% of breaches are severe and happen in public areas or within hearing distance of others who are unrelated to the patient’s case.

Now that we’ve gotten your attention, let’s emphasize that a HIPAA violation is clearly not just about you. Primarily, it is about the patient whose health information was exposed. It is a clear sign of disrespect to the patient, who usually suffers horrible consequences such as damages to something they hold dear, like their relationships and dignity as a person.

For those who intentionally or unintentionally fail to follow the HIPAA law, the consequences come in varying degrees of severity. Violators may be asked to attend rigorous HIPAA compliance training and receive other disciplinary actions. First-timers who were unaware that they made a breach may be required to pay a fine from as low as $100 to as high as $50,000. Those who intentionally commit a violation, such as those who receive payment in exchange for information, may have to pay a sky-high fine of up to $250,000 as well as face criminal sanctions and jail time. The journey back from this kind of mistake would certainly be very stressful to the violator.

In what circumstances can a CNA be charged with a HIPAA violation?

1. Discussing a patient with someone who is not proving direct care for the patient. For example, while having lunch with a fellow CNA who is cares for a different set of patients, you told them about your patient's “accident” with their ostomy.

2. Discussing a patient's health status with someone without express permission from the patient or their legal guardian. For example, you excitedly announced a patient’s positive pregnancy test results to her husband.

3. Relating information within hearing distance of others who are not related to the patient's case. For example, you told the nurse about your client's depression while you are in the elevator with other people.

4. Reading the hospital records of a patient who is not under your care. For example, a family member made a complaint to your employer after they saw you read the records of the patient on the other side of the unit.

5. Taking a photograph of a patient and sharing it on social media without express consent from the patient or the legal guardian. For example, you took a picture of a young burn patient and uploaded it to Facebook without asking permission from the child's parents, in the hope of raising awareness to fire hazards in the home.

6. Willfully using a patient's information for financial gain. For example, an unknown person asks you for the results of a patient’s DNA test and you give them the information in exchange for some cash.

7. Exposing a patient's medical records or hospital chart. For example, you accidentally left the patient's charts in the waiting room and people in the room looked at the contents of the chart.

8. Improper disposal of medical records. For example, the supervisor asked you to throw away some hard copies of patient information and you threw the papers, which were not shredded, in with the regular trash.

Do not let a HIPAA violation affect your career or cost you your job. It is important to keep your institutional policies in mind and always handle your patient's health information with the utmost care and professionalism.

Try reviewing the course material on hipaa class from our course library.


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