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FAQ30: What patient information can I put in a Newsletter?
by Mike Miller


On 5/4/03 Judy Ramboldt wrote to WebWhispers:

"This is an open letter to all the larys on this site. Yesterday I got a strong reprimand from an employee at a hospital/clinic. I had written about two of our members who are the sick list. I have always tried to keep up on the health of our members. Anyway, this person said that I was violating the HIPPA or HIPAA rules."

Judy,

I'm no expert on the HIPAA but I have been a little curious about the new piece of paper I'm being presented with for signature at every clinic I've been to in the past two weeks (3 so far) so I did a bit of reading and here's what I've learned. The act in question, the HIPAA, creates federal privacy standards to protect patients' medical records. Health plans, Health care clearinghouses and Health care providers (the covered entities) are now required to provide patients with access to their medical records and there is now more federal control over how a patient's personal health information is used and disclosed. The act represents a uniform, federal floor of privacy protections for consumers across the country.

Was the information you published in your newsletter obtained from the patient's medical record? Was the information obtained by you while working as an employee (paid or volunteer) of the hospital/clinic you mention? If so you should learn a little more about this new act but you might also inquire why the hospital/clinic hasn't provided you with some information and/or training on patient privacy, as opposed to a strong reprimand. If neither of the above are true then the employee you mention could be misinformed.

Also remember that if a patient says its ok to list their name and details in your newsletter, it is!

There's a good government website that has explanations about the act and some FAQS at: http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/hipaa/

And it's not as "legalese" as one might think.

Michael Miller



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