Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Three Of A Perfect Pair

HIPAA as a PR Shield:
Javier Espinosa, a senior at SMU, recently came within two hours of dying. Doctors at Methodist Hospital in Dallas saved his life with an emergency liver transplant.

While Espinosa initially went to SMU's Memorial Health Center to be treated and diagnosed for his cold-like symptoms, he said the health center is not equipped with proper resources to diagnose and treat severe cases.

"The health center can't recognize and [doesn't] really know how to handle hard-core cases like mine," Espinosa said.

Espinosa said he expected the health center to offer advice and guidance when they were unable to diagnose his symptoms. However, staff at the health center said very little and did not suggest going to a hospital.

"I expected the health center to be more responsible," he said. "It was obvious my test results were off the chart and they weren't like 'Go and see a doctor in this hospital,' and they should have."

The health center had no comment regarding Espinosa's case and referred questions to SMU's Assistant Director of News & Communications, Robert Bobo.

Bobo said that Espinosa's case cannot be talked about unless he signs a contract releasing the school from HIPAA or FERPA. HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and according to the online U.S. Department of Health and Human Services it's the "national standards to protect the privacy or personal health information." FERPA is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

HIPAA as interpreted by the Three Stooges:

So, we all trooped in to the county’s selected health care provider for TB testing. I really didn’t know exactly what was supposed to be done and presumed that the Occupational Medicine Center we went to did. Wrong. I came to find out that while half of us received the appropriate testing, the other half received misinformation. And our second test was done way too soon, necessitating a third test. Further, I found out that we were treated as “new hires” in a big hospital rather than acute EMS exposures. After several weeks of attempting to deal with the situation as Jane Q. Paramedic, I was still unable to convince the hospital to give me a copy of my own medical records, despite executed HIPAA releases and dozens of phone calls. Seems you have to get your medical records from somewhere six states away. Then, they sent me all of my medical records for the last 10 years, with the exception of the one for the exposure, which was the only one I requested. They also sent me a big bill for the copies.

And finally, HIPAA as the New Sheriff in Town:

Arizona requires mandatory disclosure of medical records in medical malpractice cases and, amazingly, is currently considering a change to mandatory arbitration procedures to require the same thing. As we have often explained, these provisions violate HIPPA, the comprehensive federal scheme that provides essential privacy rights for medical records.

The voice of reason is finally kicking in: the Georgia Supreme Court recently struck down their statute requiring mandatory disclosure of medical records in medical malpractice cases citing HIPPA preemption. The decision basically holds that the Georgia statute's failure to include provisions required by HIPPA, such as "the HIPAA requirement of notice of the right to revoke" or "the failure to require a specific and meaningful identification of the information to be disclosed and the failure to provide for an expiration date or a sufficient expiration event," makes the Georgia invalid in light of the preemptive effect of HIPPA.