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TexLaw, Attorney
Category: Legal
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Experience:  Lead trial/International commercial attorney licensed 11 yrs
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Is this a HIPAA violation? Please explain your answer in detail. A

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Is this a HIPAA violation? Please explain your answer in detail.
A nurse is on lunch break. Her male cousin and Aunt are coming to the hospital to take home the cousin's girlfriend and their new born child.

The Aunt texts the nurse that they are in the hospital and would love if she could visit quickly. The nurse had previously visited the mom and new baby 48 hours prior.

When the nurse walks into the room, the AUnt immediately tells her that there is "trouble; maternal grandparents are upset that mom and new baby are living with her. Social Services has been contacted and security has been called also. The nurse comforts her Aunt and leaves the room.

AFter her break is over, the nurse returns to her work. Supervisor and co-workers ask her what is wrong? She says that she just saw her Aunt and cousin and that her Aunt told her that social services are involved. She says she feels bad for everyone and new baby. Supervisor gives her an encouraging remark; nurse focuses her attention to her job responsibilities and finishes her shift.

Was ANY HIPAA law violated? WHY ? WHY NOT? Can new mother say that her HIPAA rights were violated or newborns?

Thank you for your question.

HIPAA prohibits the unauthorized disclosure of protected medical records and information. The duty under HIPAA is on the medical service providers, such as the nurse and the hospital.

In the fact scenario that you are relating, the nurse learns of unrelated non-medical information regarding social services, etc. This is not protected medical information under HIPAA. Therefore, the nurse did not violate HIPAA when she told the other medical service providers in the hospital what she had learned from the Aunt.

Accordingly, there is no HIPAA violation under these facts.

Please let me know if you have further questions. Please also kindly consider rating my answer positively so that I am compensated by the website for my work on your question. Rating does not cause an additional charge and will not prevent us from further discussing your questions.

Best Regards,

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Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I have a person in authority who clearly says that HIPAA was violated when the nurse told co-workers why she was upset. It is a small community and some of her co-workers know the nurse's cousin and mother of the baby.


However, isnt this a family situation, not HIPAA? The aunt clearly told nurse what happened. The nurse was just sharing with co-workers. Yes or No?



Yes, it's a family situation. This isn't protected medical information which is regulated by HIPAA. Further, the nurse is under no duty to not disclose to other hospital workers what she hears a non-patient say. The aunt is the one who disclosed the information, not the nurse.
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