The Impact of HIPAA on Patients and Nursing Staff


When HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) was passed in 1996 it was an important step in providing a patient with new rights to privacy, greater access to and control of their medical records. This was made necessary due to the increasing practice of electronically sharing data by fax and computer. Had this not passed we would probably be checking our medical records on “Youtube”.


However, as with all good things, there is usually a downside. There was great confusion understanding just to whom, when and how patient information could be shared. This interfered with doctors obtaining necessary information from other medical professionals when a timely response was critical to patient safety.


The stiff penalties associated with non-compliance also generated some fear in the medical institutions. Civil penalties of $25,000, in addition to fines of up to $250,000, and 10 years in jail was pretty frightening.


Much of this confusion and fear has diminished in the last few years as far as the medical profession is concerned.  However, patients are another matter.  As I discovered from a quick survey of family and friends, it appears that nobody actually reads the forms that they receive and sign. Most have a vague idea that it involves privacy, but have no idea of the implications.


Until a situation arises, most family members do not realize that they cannot access their adult children and sibling’s medical information without written consent of the patient. Even fewer realize that there is an expiration date to the consent form.


This misunderstanding results in many heated telephone conversations, particularly with parents of adult children.  These parents want to set up appointments and get test results and do not realize that they are not entitled to this information. This can be a great distraction and time waster for the nursing staff.


How can we do a better job at educating patients and family with respect to HIPAA?


Perhaps some of the problem with HIPPA can be summed up in a joke that appeared on in 2004.


Knock, Knock.

Who’s there?


HIPAA who?

Sorry, I am not allowed to disclose that information.




Healthcare Online Education Consultant

For Helpful Links and more information, click here.


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