No patient privacy breach here – The Daily Journal Editorial Board

The Daily Journal Editorial Board writes that linking to an online story in social media shouldn’t be considered a privacy breach or HIPAA breach, even if the person doing the linking is bound by patient confidentiality and had been involved in the patient’s care. In this case, though, it seems that the employee was suspended not necessarily for any privacy breach, but for not following protocol and releasing information he shouldn’t have released:

The technology has become a stumbling block for the Richmond County Rescue Squad, which suspended 20-year-old volunteer Adrian Robson this week at least in part because he linked to an online story about a fatal Rockingham shooting to which Robson and fellow volunteers responded.

Rescue squad Chief Scott Waters said Robson was suspended for providing a crash victim’s condition to a Daily Journal reporter, an internal breach of protocol because he was not authorized to release the information. Robson believes the Facebook posting is the main reason for his suspension.

Waters said he’s looking into whether Robson violated the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which safeguards some patient information from public disclosure, when he linked to the shooting story on Facebook. North Carolina media law attorneys say Robson most likely did not break HIPAA rules.

Robson shared a link to a local website’s story about the shooting on his personal Facebook page with the comment “Well, first call of the day…”

Read more on YourDailyJournal.com.

I agree that linking to the story is not a HIPAA breach, although it shows poor judgement. However, if the volunteer released information on the crash victim’s condition to a reporter, that is a privacy/confidentiality breach that warrants suspension and more training – not because of “internal protocol” as much as for patient privacy issues.

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