In an age of social media, Google and cell phone videos, privacy can sometimes be seen as a thing of the past. While some people are content to share all the details of their lives, from the smallest to the biggest, medical privacy is still a pressing and important issue. Provider negligence when it comes to a diagnosis, medication or any type of health care information can have profound and reverberating impacts on a person's ability to seek and receive necessary care.
A New Jersey hospital was sued when it was discovered that an employee disclosed medical details concerning an 11-year-old boy's suicide attempt to those who did not have a legal right to that information. In the suit filed by the boy's mother, she claimed that her son was ostracized and bullied by his peers at school. Had they not had access to the information concerning his attempted suicide, the subsequent bullying would likely not have occurred.
This type of medical disclosure is not only harmful to patients, but it is also illegal. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act -- more commonly known as HIPAA -- prohibits the sharing of any type of diagnosis or treatment information without a patient's express permission. Despite this, there are more than 30,000 annual complaints concerning HIPAA violations, with likely even more going unreported.
Medical providers in New Jersey should typically be explicitly aware of HIPAA standards while treating patients, and willful negligence of such can compromise patients' treatments and overall health. When care is compromised because of a HIPAA violation, many patients often feel as if there is nowhere to turn for additional necessary care. Any injuries or damages sustained because of information violations can typically be compensated in a just manner through a medical malpractice claim successfully navigated by or on behalf of the victim.
Source: NPR, "Small Violations Of Medical Privacy Can Hurt Patients And Erode Trust", Alison Kodjak, Dec. 10, 2015