Hospital fulfills subpoena, gets hit with privacy suit

Amy Lynn Sorrel reports:

Patient privacy is no doubt paramount in any physician practice. But when a subpoena suddenly is thrust into the physician-patient relationship, doctors may find themselves caught between the law and their privacy obligations.

The Cleveland Clinic in Ohio found itself in such a predicament when it agreed to turn over a patient’s records in response to a grand jury subpoena in a criminal investigation.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, in a Feb. 1 ruling, said that more stringent state privacy standards superseded the hospital’s obligations to comply with the subpoena and related disclosure requirements under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. The ruling allows a patient to sue the hospital for invading his privacy.

Read more on American Medical News. Sorrel provides the background on the case as well as a good summary of some of the legal issues of state privacy laws that extend greater protections than HIPAA.

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