Hospital Privacy Rules Irk Missouri Police

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When a truck backed over a Kansas City man last month, critically injuring him, police went to the hospital to get more information for their investigation. But the Truman Medical Center, citing new federal privacy guidelines, wouldn’t even tell them whether the man was being treated there, says the Kansas City Star.

Hospitals say they are following provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. But police in Kansas City — and throughout much of Missouri — say hospitals are interpreting the rules too narrowly. “They’re overreacting,” said Kansas City Police Sgt. Randy Sims. “We can’t complete our investigation if we don’t have access to victims.”

The new federal guidelines give patients guarantees that their medical information will be kept private. Missouri common law on patient privacy is far more restrictive than the new guidelines and does not allow for special treatment of law enforcement officers.

In the past, Missouri hospitals may have interpreted state law loosely when police asked for information. They are being more cautious under the new federal guidelines because health-care providers who violate state privacy laws could be breaking the new federal law as well.

Kansas City police worry about suspected drunk drivers. “Not allowing us to get to the suspect or delaying that could jeopardize any charges being brought against the suspect,” Sims said. “If we can’t get in there, how do we arrest them for DUI?”


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