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TexLaw, Attorney
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Experience:  Lead trial/International commercial attorney licensed 11 yrs
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2 Questions: I work at a university health clinic. There

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2 Questions:
I work at a university health clinic. There was a dispute over the format of a lab report. I was going to send a copy of my own personal results as an example of the correct form. I asked the lab technician to print it out. When she couldn't find a way to print my results, she offered to use one of her reports. I thought I blacked out her name, but I didn't get it in all places. I faxed it to the outside clinic. The head of our clinic got a copy and said that I violated HIPPA by faxing it out because I only obtained verbal permission, not written permission from the lab tech and all tests are property of the clinic and that I violated HIPPA. The lab tech said it was OK for me to do this and still says it was OK to use her report. Did I violate HIPPA?

Q2: For several years I have worked here and we were always told we could not accept lab titer reports unless they met World Health Org standards and contained numbers. A student had gone to much trouble to pay for a report that didn't have numbers, so I tried to help and called the clinic to rectify. It is a large clinic affiliated with a hospital said they checked our web site and no where does it contain this policy. I went to a great deal of trouble to go to the head administrator who makes policy to find out why the web site which he is in charge of didn't have the info. The student misses class until this is resolved. He sat on for 2 days. I was told that this was our policy for numbers but not by him, I had no response from him. That is when I sent the example, as other students will go to the same clinic and would have the same problem. I sent our the example. I made any error in wording and apologized for taking so long to get back to them, because I had to wait on my bosses to make a ruling. One hour after I sent it out, another boss, the head doctor said it was OK to accept worded ranges and to take the reports. I called back the clinic immediately and said to disregard the fax, that we would accept their reports as is and in the future. Four days later I was called aside by my boss, the head nurse and told that the bosses of the clinic were furious with me for violating HIPPA. They had a copy of my fax and the lab report. Can I be fired for this? They said that I had publicly criticized them and it would not be tolerated. We are a state agency. I possibly should have picked better words, but the web site does contain inaccurate info.

In regard to question 1, were the lab results the actual medical records of the lab tech, or were they related to a patient of the clinic?

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

They are the actual medicals records of the lab tech, not a student patient. We are required to show immunity for childhood illness and have to do the same tests.

I see.

HIPAA does require direct written authorization from the patient for any disclosure which is not strictly related to the provision of medical treatment to the patient or in regard to payment for that medical treatment. So, your supervisors are correct, this does technically violate HIPAA, although it is a harmless violation.

You should ask that the lab technician sign a written authorization form for you (which you can download from the following page: use the one that the clinic uses).

In regard to whether you can be fired for this infraction, this is compeltely within your employers discretion. The law is extremely favorable for employers. You are classified as an at-will employee and may be terminated by your employer for any reason whatsoever, even if there is no cause. However, here, you have violated the HIPAA disclosure rules so there is cause for termination.

You will need to humbly explain to your supervisors that this was an innocent mistake and that you had not received any training regarding HIPAA but have gone out and educated yourself on it and understand it now and that this kind of disclosure will never happen again. You should also show them that you obtained a written consent for the disclosure and that there is no problem and no liability out there.

I would really be surprised if you were terminated for this, as it truly is a harmless infraction and you were just trying to help out the students.

Please let me know if you have any 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 positively does not cause an additional charge and does not prevent us from further discussing your questions.

Best Regards,
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