June 9, 2012

HIPAA: a love/hate relationship

I have discovered that when it comes to HIPAA (often mistakenly spelled HIPPA, but I know what you mean), there is a love/hate relationship.

Patients love HIPAA:

Them:  "I don't want you to tell my mother anything about my care."
Me:  "OK"
Them:  "Will my job find out I'm here?"
Me:  "Only if you tell them.  By the way, your mom called wanting information.  I told her I can't confirm or deny that you're here, that I could only take a message.  She wasn't happy about it."
Them:  "Thank you!  I hate the bitch."

But when they're the family, friend, or other person trying to find out information about a patient, they hate it:

Them:  "I know my daughter is there, I dropped her off, for God's sake!  Why can't you tell me anything?"
Me:  "I'm sorry, without a release of information I can't discuss her care.  And she has not yet authorized me to talk to you."
Them:  "But I'm her mother!"
Me:  "She is a legally competent adult and the law protects her privacy."

Or:

Them:  "They don't know where she is, her family is worried, I know the police dropped her off a month ago, can't you do anything?"
Me:  "We have no patient by that name in our facility at the moment.  You can try calling other facilities or contact Missing Persons."
Them:  "But I know they took her there, the cops told us.  Can't you tell me where they have sent her?  Her kids don't know where she is!"
Me:  "I am not unsympathetic to your concerns, however the law prevents me from telling you if and when she was here and if she was, where she may have been transferred to."
Them:  "You're heartless.  Can't you throw us a bone?"
Me:  "Sorry, but that is the federal law."

Or:

Them:  "I don't think she should be released, she's down right crazy!  She did...."
Me:  "When she will be released is up to her and her doctor."
Them:  "Well, I want to talk to her doctor!"
Me:  "I'm sorry, she has not authorized us to allow that."
Them:  "But she's fucking crazy!!!"
Me:  "She is a competent adult, and her and her doctor will work together regarding her treatment."
Them:  "I'll sue you, all of you if she's released!"
Me:  "That is your right.  However I can't let you talk to her doctor without her permission."

This further supports my beliefs that it's not always the psychiatric patients that are difficult and abusive:  it's often their families.

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