The new national standard for medical privacy that makes the unauthorized release of medical information a crime has resulted in widespread confusion among law enforcers, the media, medical officials and the public, reports USA Today.
The 500-page Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) “has been interpreted in extreme – and often incorrect – ways that critics say have been impractical at best and nonsensical at worst,” the paper said.
Some of the results:
–Thousands of doctors have stopped sending out appointment-reminder postcards, figuring the cards could be read by someone other than the patient. Some doctors have stopped leaving messages on patients’ telephone answering machines, fearing that other family members might listen to them. Wives have been told they no longer could verify dental appointments for their husbands.
–Some hospitals have stopped providing information to patients’ family members and clergy.
–Some weekly newspapers stopped publishing birth announcements because hospitals stopped providing the names.
–In a few cases, new privacy policies at hospitals have stymied police trying to investigate crimes.
The HIPAA was passed by Congress in 1996 to allow patients easier access to their medical records and to limit others’ ability to get such information. It took the government seven years to write the regulations for enforcing the law.