Sunday, June 11, 2006

Back to Ohio

More stories the growing awareness of the poor enforcement of HIPAA.

First this one from Ohio:

(Columbus Dispatch (Ohio) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Jun. 11--The big board in the intensive-care unit at Mount Carmel West hospital, where Daniel Lynch spent four months last year, listed his name, room number, doctor and when he last had a bath.

Wives of other patients approached his wife, Eileen, and told her that their husbands shared the same doctor and the same pulmonary illness."I was like, 'Who are you? Go away,' " Mrs. Lynch said. "My husband was dying."She complained to nurses and supervisors, saying that the board violated the privacy portion of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, HIPAA for short.

"I refer to it as the HIPAA violation board," Lynch said.

Lynch did not complain to the Feds.

And yet another story, this time an editorial from the same state:

When met with a clear violation, the HHS's Office of Civil Rights encourages "voluntary compliance." So instead of getting a fine or some other tough penalty, violators are told to right their wrongs. So what's the point of the law? Why make patients sign the forms if violators are not penalized? That makes the law meaningless.The lax approach leaves nothing to compel the health-care profession to comply. Not surprisingly, insurance companies, hospitals, and doctors like the emphasis on voluntary compliance. That means they don't have to worry about $100 fines for each civil violation of the law, or having the Justice Department seek up to $250,000 in fines and 10 years in jail for criminal violations.This cannot continue. The Department of Health and Human Services must enforce HIPAA. Once the federal agency begins to do its job and clamp down on violators, others in health care will get the message and comply. The sad truth is that HHS should have been doing so all along.

As a famous blogger often says, indeed.

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