Yesterday four hospital employees or contract workers were fired in Tuscon, AZ for violating HIPAA rules.  They tried to access medical information regarding some of the victims of the AZ shooting.  If you have ever worked within the health care industry, you have slammed into the brick wall of privacy called HIPAA.  The original intent of this federal law was to insure that it would be illegal for your health care records to be stolen from the Internet or when faxed.  As rules were made explaining the intent of Congress, the law was extended to all records being shared with anyone.  The current version of  HIPAA is 4010A1.  Because this is a federal law rather than a state law, it affects everyone in the country. 

Recently, Congress passed a newer version which was meant to answer and erase more than 500 flaws in the current law.  It is HIPAA 5010 and will come into effect January 1, 2012.  Most of these changes will not effect me but how my medical information is handled.  It will help in transfering information between doctors and answers billing concerns. 

The main thing I need to know about the HIPAA law is that none of my medical information can be exchanged without my written permission.  When I go into my doctor’s office for the first time, I’m asked to fill out a privacy form.  Like you, I never read it…just sign the bottom line.  However, it is a good thing to pursue the information.  There is one line in the form that should be filled out.  It asks to whom I would like my medical information shared.  I put down everyone and her parrot.  My children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, siblings, my pastor friends, close friends and my business associates are included in my list.  It often extends to the back page.  

The person who examines the forms casually glances over the form without actually looking at it and files the bugger.  I always ask them to look at the number of people who should have access to my medical records and watch their incipid little smile turn to a growl.  Because I’m disgustingly healthy, I’ve never had to challenge one of my doctors when my medical information is NOT shared with someone on my list.  Please understand that I really don’t want to make the person who hands out medical information’s job harder.  However, I want people who care about me to have that information and my doctor is legally bounded to withhold these facts unless I ask, in writing, to allow it.

In ministering to people who are part of the mentally challenged community, medical issues are a vital part of what we do.  We need to ask to be on the list of people who have access to their medical information.  A simple form needs to be signed by your member or their guardian; and it needs to be sent to your member’s support coordinator or service coordinator. 

If a member is in the hospital, I cannot go to the information desk and ask, “Is Marcex Monjoili in this hospital?”  The hospital cannot legally give me that information.  However, I can ask, “What room is Marcex Monjoili in?”  This question assumes that I know that Marcex is in the hospital and merely need directions to his room.  If Marcex is no longer in the hospital, the receptionist can tell me that Marcex has been released.  He cannot tell me where Marcex has gone or the exact time of his release.