Medical Privacy Rule Confusing for Patients

Great article in the Lansing State Journal about the confusion among patients over medical privacy.

Nicole Jacques reports:

At Lansing dermatologist Gregory Messenger’s office, patients sign in by handing in a discreet slip of paper.

Office workers shred any document with patients’ full names and Social Security numbers.

And a few times every week, staff members have to turn down spouses or other relatives calling for basic patient information.

“They get angry,” office manager Beth Nathan said of telling the callers they don’t have written consent.

Complying with the 2003 patient-privacy rule of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act has profoundly changed how doctors and staff talk to and about patients, as well as how patients themselves negotiate the health care system.

Those whose daily jobs hinge on HIPAA, as it’s known, handle a longer paper trail and constant emphasis on strict confidentiality.

There still is confusion about who can give what medical information to whom and grumbling about bureaucracy and weak enforcement.

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