Thursday, November 10, 2005

It Only takes One Bar (To Make a Prison)

Looks like some folks in the Delaware Department of Correction and Correctional Medical Services are hiding behind HIPAA:

Rep. Spence decided to call for research into HIPAA after a Monday night legislative public hearing, where scores of inmates or their families lambasted the state agency and the private company for poor care."We want to find out if there is a way we can look at some of these records," Rep. Spence said."It's very frustrating for us as elected officials because we want to find out what's happening, but it's hard to do that without medical records."There might be something we can do legislatively to help the situation."
Ronald D. Smith, the House attorney who will be charged with researching HIPAA, said he is not sure what his efforts will yield."HIPAA is a vast undertaking of federal legislation," Mr. Smith said."I have some familiarity with it because my wife is involved with medical record-keeping. You either have an exemption or you do not. You are not going to get a lot of give.

HIPAA is so dang convenient! No one understands it, everyone is afraid of it, and it lets you keep secrets! Mr. Smith, who is quoted above, demonstrates the problems with osmotive knowledge. His wife works in medical records keeping, so he is an expert! My ex-wife is an engineer with Boeing, so I can design airplanes! My oldest son is a french Chef, so lemme at that coq au vin! My across the street neighbor is a heart surgeon, so hand me that scalpel!
I am a little confused, though. Which "exemptions" are Mr. Smith talking about? Certainly he must know that a court can order those records examined. Surely he is aware that, as the article points out, the inmate can designate a personal representative.
In fairness to poor Mr. Smith, he was probably put on the spot, and very likely HIPAA is pretty far outside of his field of practice. It sounds like he is not going to let the Department of Corrections bamboozle him, at least not for long. Chances are, the real barrier is not some evil-doer covering up wrong, but some over-worked records clerk in the basement of a state facility who just doesn't understand how the whole thing works. In which case there is no need for new legislation, just a better training program, and perhaps better oversight of the patient notification of inmates.
If there is anyone in that cyclone of confusion who needs a consultant to help sort things out, give me a call. In the meantime, has anyone seen my retracters? I'm needed in surgery!

No comments: