HIPAA vs. ‘Incidental Disclosure’

We all overhear confidential conversations we probably shouldn’t in various medical settings.

Sometimes, it’s inadvertent: through thin examination-room walls, through flimsy curtains between hospital beds.

Sometimes, it’s downright impossible *not* to hear details you shouldn’t. We’ve all seen those doctors who waltz into waiting rooms to divulge (very personal) information to a pateint’s family …and everyone else within earshot.

How is all this possible in the age of HIPAA and its many privacy provisions?

Basically, “the HIPAA Privacy Rule…does not require that all risk of incidental use or disclosure be eliminated to satisfy its standards.”

So, instead of trying to battle this problem, HIPAA simply concedes that it exists (“the potential exists for an individual’s health information to be disclosed incidentally”) and says, oh, well, can’t do anything about that

I understand it’s a hard thing to fix, but still, shouldn’t HIPAA at least attempt to decrease the amount of incidental disclosure going on?

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