Medical privacy law fails to stop snooping

Clark Kauffman has an article in the Des Moines Register about medical snooping and HIPAA violations in Iowa that makes for an interesting, if unsurprising, read:

When Jill went to her doctor two years ago for an operation on her uterus, she didn’t expect that details of her problem would later appear in the hometown newspaper.

The article included her full name and occupation. There were details of what was called her “embarrassing” and “odd” medical problem of heavy menstrual flow. The article described her physician’s treatment and said, “Now Jill no longer experiences heavy and irregular periods.”

Jill says she was subjected to public ridicule, humiliation and depression. She is now suing a medical-services company and its public relations firm for the alleged unauthorized use of her name and medical condition in a promotional piece that masqueraded as a news article.

Jill isn’t the only Iowan to complain of medical-privacy violations. A Des Moines Sunday Register review of state and federal records shows that dozens of Iowa health care workers have been disciplined by their employers for snooping through the medical records of HIV-positive men, pregnant teenagers, victims of domestic violence and emergency-room patients.

Not one of them has been prosecuted for violating the federal patient-privacy law known as HIPAA, an acronym for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. When enforcement of the law began in 2003, it was touted as an effective tool in the fight to improve patient privacy.

Read more in the Des Moines Register

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