Friday, October 9, 2009

Patient Confidentiality

In the past few days Elizabeth Taylor has tweeted (@DameElizabeth) several times about her heart valve surgery and hospitalization. Since she has made her health condition and hospitalization public, does this mean the nurses can divulge that they have provided care for her?

NO it does not! HIPAA regulations still hold, and even before these regs took effect, nurses have had an obligation to maintain patient confidentiality. Ms. Taylor can divulge what she feels comfortable with, but the entire hospital staff is bound by patient confidentiality and HIPAA regulations about who can view or know any of her information as it pertains to their job and her care.

This can be a challenging part of the job especially for those who work in facilities that often care for celebrities and their families and friends. It's human nature to want to share stories about who you saw in a restaurant or shopping mall, but if they are a patient you must not tell anyone.

Remember too that HIPAA regs apply to all patients. You might have a neighbor admitted to your unit, and other neighbors may inquire as to his/her status as they see you coming or going from home. Without your neighbor's permission, you can't discuss the case either. You can't even discuss it with your own family. Protect your license and suggest they call or visit.

photo: screenshot from Twitter

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