Many of you are probably familiar with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) of 1996. Most of our doctors ask us to sign a new HIPAA privacy form at the start of each new year. But how many of us actually read it and pay attention to what it says. How many of us know what OUR rights are whenever we interact with any doctors, hospitals, pharmacies etc.
For example, a classic violation when visiting a doctor's office is standing at the main reception desk having to discuss things like your name, insurance, and even in some cases, tests, surgeries, prescriptions and so forth? If the doctor's staff is doing this where everyone can hear, that is a direct violation of HIPAA privacy laws. You ever notice how many doctor's offices have that sliding glass window but it NEVER gets closed? That's there for a reason. They are supposed to keep it closed so people in the waiting room can't hear phone conversations and conversations with patients. Patients are supposed to be on the other side of that window when discussing any information related to your health. Yet, this is a common violation. If this is happening to you, speak up if you are uncomfortable. Pay attention when you are at the office if they close the window when taking phone calls. Can you hear everything they are talking about with a patient on the phone? Would you want to be that patient on the other end of the phone knowing everyone in the waiting room could hear that conversation?
Pharmacies are another huge violator of HIPAA privacy rules. Most have no private area but have a big reception area where you drop off and pick up prescriptions. You have to give out your name and address and frequently other private information such as insurance, doctor, the prescription being filled etc. all standing right there at the desk where everyone else in line can hear you. This is a violation of your privacy. I personally have written letters and complained to certain pharmacies about this practice and since I got nowhere, I no longer use them. I found a nice small pharmacy (which, by the way, has much cheaper prices for things that aren't covered) where they know my face, know who I am when I call and go out of their way to be discrete when talking with you. This is how it should be, but it isn't the case at almost any major pharmacy you walk into.
Hospitals have been notorious for violation of HIPAA privacy in certain circumstances. If you've ever had surgery at a hospital, then you know the doctor goes out to speak with your family/loved one(s) waiting to hear how everything went. At many hospitals, the doctor walks into the family waiting area and just starts talking to the family and everyone else in the room can hear. Again, a violation of HIPAA privacy laws. My hospital has recently done a lot of renovations and the Family Surgical Waiting Room now has several private conference rooms where the doctor takes the family to discuss the patient's surgery. This is how it SHOULD be. Before these renovations, my Mom would always be out in the waiting room and said every doctor would come in and she could hear everything about every patient and that's just wrong. My doctor, on the other hand, ALWAYS took her someplace else to tell her about me. He did it right even when they didn't have the accommodations right there. Pay attention to this too. If your hospital doesn't have private consultation rooms and the doctor starts talking in front of everyone, ask to go elsewhere and speak privately. This is your RIGHT!
We often take for granted that because we are dealing with medical professionals, that they would never violate our privacy. And I don't believe many do it on purpose. Although I strongly believe Pharmacies should know better and re-design their pharmacy areas to accommodate patient privacy. But we often don't speak up, even when we are uncomfortable; no one likes confrontation. But if you feel your privacy is being violated, speak up and ask for the privacy to which you are legally entitled!
Here's a link to information on HIPAA where you can familiarize yourself with the law and where HIPAA applies and where it doesn't. Get educated about this important topic.