Ask a Lawyer and Get Answers to Your Legal Questions
Hi, thank you for your question.
You actually have two questions: one is with regard to violating HIPAA, and the other is with regard to breaking a confidentiality agreement. Did you have a confidentiality agreement with the patient? It's certainly possible, but it would be unusual.
I'm a dental hygienist. I just assumed a confidentiality agreement is there. No actual document.
That's not an unreasonable assumption because there is so much emphasis on privacy, especially medical privacy. But a confidentiality agreement would be an actual agreement, like a contract.
So I think that resolves at least one of your concerns? Let's discuss HIPAA....
Under 45 C.F.R. § 160.103, the HIPAA privacy rule covers only "individually identifiable health information". That includes things like name, social security number, and birth date. It can also include things like the health information of the individual. It would normally not include information that a patient had a mistress (although, I suppose it could include that if the information was obtained for medical reasons--for example, if a physician was examining someone for a sexually transmitted disease, and the patient disclosed that they were concerned about it because they had contact with a mistress.)
Ok. I'm just concerned. The entire family comes to my office. She told me today, she found out he was cheating on her back in Sept. and now going thru a divorce. She wanted to know why I made that statement back then. I told her I was caught off guard originally when I first met her, but didn't say anything because I didn't want to get involved. However, today she asked me point blank if he ever brought another woman to the office! My face couldn't
Well, that's certainly an uncomfortable situation, but HIPAA only protects individually identifiable health information. I can't blame you for regretting your slip of the tongue, but even if something is uncomfortable, it doesn't make it illegal or a violation of privacy laws.
Does that make sense?
Thanks. I feel better. It was definitely uncomfortable, and I felt horrible. Thankfully, his parents love me & so does his soon to be ex. He is going to go crazy on me, now that his family knows he was going around town showing of his mistress. His dad already told me he was disappointed in his son's actions. However, he didn't know I had already knew the situation before him.
I do hope that I was able to explain this information to you in a helpful way.
Have all of your questions been answered?
Yes. Thank You