HIPAA is not Always Your Friend

by Bhaj Townsend

... or that is what I have recently found out. I will detail it a little more. If I had not witnessed what I am about to share with you, I would have a hard time believing it myself. 

My husband went to a couple’s house to join them for an evening of fun and catch up. Oddly enough, my husband and the gentleman who were going to visit were best friends in school but had lost touch over the years. It wasn’t until this gentleman’s wife and I met and talked that the connection between our two husbands was discovered.

 When we arrived at their home, the wife warmly greeted us and said her husband must be on his way. After twenty minutes or so passed and her husband had not yet come home, she called him. He profusely apologized and said he was just finishing something up. He would call in a few minutes to let her know he would be joining us soon.

Twenty minutes passes. When she called again, his phone was turned off. He must be on his way home.

 

We continued our conversations and nibble on some delicious appetizers. My husband was looking forward to reconnecting with his best grade school friend.  But that was not to be, not that night.  

More time passed and still her husband had not come home from what should have been a very short drive. What was perplexing was that his phone was off. As we started talking about what we could do to make contact with her husband her phone rang. Her husband was on the other end in an almost inaudible voice. 

All he could say in a groggy communication was that he was in the hospital. He then turned the phone over to the attending nurses. They confirmed what hospital he was in and that they had no more information as to her husband’s condition.

We rushed her to the hospital where she was able to join her husband. He had had a heart episode. He somehow drove himself to the hospital and parked. He collapsed and lost consciousness as he entered the hospital lobby. He is fine now. And this is how we learned about the dark side of HIPAA.

We learned that her husband had been in the hospital of almost thirty minutes before his wife was contacted. “Why didn’t the hospital call her?” we asked.  They said that they did not have the authority to do so. HIPAA prevented that. We could not believe that. It made no sense. We were told that without the patient’s consent they cannot give information about the patient to ANYONE. This is crazy. That is why he made the call, once he regained consciousness. Utterly ridiculous.

We learned that if hospitals don’t have your HIPAA release form they canNOT contact even a family member on the patient’s behalf.  Only the patient or their HIPAA form gives the hospital the right to contact EVEN the spouse. Privacy beats sensibility.

I urge you to at least keep in your wallet the doctor’s card that has your most recent HIPAA release form information.