George Clooney and HIPAA???

From a recent blog post by Peter Lucash:

Actor and heartthrob George Clooney was involved in a motorcycle accident in northern New Jersey about three weeks ago, and he was treated at Palisades Medical Center. Yesterday, twenty-seven employees were given month long suspension for looking at his medical record without cause or need.

Clooney, for his part, said that he hoped ?that this could be settled without suspending medical workers?. The union charged that the hospital overreacted because the actions involved a high profile patient, and suggested, according to the Jersey Journal, that ?there are hospital obligations to have security systems so that a breach can?t occur?.

True ? but within the confines of payment, treatment and operations, there is wide latitude in making records accessible so as not to impinge upon the legitimate needs of staff treating patients.

Every staff member involved knew perfectly well that if they were not involved in treating Mr. Clooney, then they had no business looking at his records. Every single one knew that, and they are each personally responsible for their actions. Our business relies on trust and a sense of moral and ethical duty ? this duty has been torn apart by the rise of for-profit skimming operations, from HCA

to Tenet and on down the line. It?s infected all areas, including those founded by religious organizations.

The takeaway: You should be doing an annual compliance and ethics training for all employees ? all, as in all, including physicians. You should have a compliance plan. Everyone signs in, and signs off that they understand and have a copy of the policy. Part of your policy is a clear statement that the practice will discipline violators, up to and including dismissal, and that you reserve the right to report an employee?s actions to law enforcement if warranted. Consult with your health care attorney before issuing such a policy, as state laws may require some tweaking, but there are certain standards and they are reasonable. Assuming that the suspended employees really did look at Clooney?s record outside of their responsibility for caring for him, a suspension is clearly warranted.

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