Is HIPAA abused as a code of silence?

HIPAA is designed to protect healthcare information security and confidentiality, but that purpose can be misinterpreted and used to make the legislation into an overarching rule of silence, according to The New York Times.

The NYT article offers several examples of supposed HIPAA violations, which are in fact misinterpretations of the law.

A woman met a friend in a hospital café to discuss her husband, who was dying of cancer. The women expressed dissatisfaction with the treatment of his pain. Another woman overhead the conversation and told her it was inappropriate to publicly discuss the details of a patient's case, as it was a HIPAA violation.

HIPAA only applies to healthcare providers, payers, clearinghouses and their associates, according to the report. Family members are allowed to share information. Under HIPAA, healthcare providers can even share information with family, friends and caregivers, unless the patient objects, according to the report.

Recently, an ESPN reporter posted a photo of NFL player Jason Pierre-Paul's medical record, following the amputation of one of the player's fingers. The story made headlines and called into question whether or not HIPAA was violated. The law does not apply to the media, but confusion over just want HIPAA covers persists.

Whether misunderstood or willfully misinterpreted, HIPAA is sometimes used to silence issues outside of the privacy law's purview.

More articles on health IT:
UCLA Health reports cyberattack affecting 4.5M
Health IT tip of the day: Secure the information, not the access points
Colorado proposes new rules for telehealth

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