You hear about doctor/patient confidentiality all the time on TV medical and legal dramas. You may have even heard it straight from your doctor’s mouth. Nevertheless, you probably take it for granted that your medical history falls under that confidentiality agreement. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, as at least one Inova patient has learned.
One specific incident where confidential Inova medical reports were shared without the patient’s consent was illustrated in the case of Inova Health Systems v Patricia Curtis. In this situation, an appeal was made to the Virginia Supreme Court in order to address the fact that Inova willfully shared the claimant’s medical records with several parties without her consent. Unfortunately, due to filing errors, the claimant’s case was dismissed and Inova didn’t have to take responsibility for their disregard of a patient’s privacy.
So, if the case wasn’t dismissed on a technicality, would Inova have been guilty of malpractice for sharing confidential medical records?
HIPAA Violations and Consequences
Patient confidentiality is actually a broad term relating to several policies enforced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is one such policy that the government enacted in order to protect the privacy of patients’ information. When hospitals violate the rules of HIPAA, the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is responsible for investigating the privacy breach. If the breach is verified, according to the American Medical Association, the hospital could be subject to both civil and criminal penalties, resulting in fines up to $1.5 million and jail time for the individual responsible for the breach.
Privacy violation lawsuits that can be pursued in these cases include:
- Invasion of Privacy: if your medical records were released to non-medical personnel (or medical personnel not associated with your care) without your consent, it can be considered publicizing private information.
- Breach of Confidentiality: the unauthorized release of medical information that was gained under physician-patient privilege. While the information in question is covered under physician-patient privilege, it is not only the physician who can be sued for releasing the information without authorization, but the institution as well.
The Cost of Privacy: HIPAA and You
Let us know your thoughts by leaving your opinions and questions in the comment section provided. We are eager to hear how you feel about medical privacy, as well as learn more about your personal experience with patient privacy issues. Not only will we be able to learn more about you, but also more about our clients’ concerns as a whole.
Need more information about your medical rights? Please feel free to download our free report: Medical Negligence: Your Rights in the District of Columbia. You’ll learn more about your rights and claim options and also see how our knowledge and experience can help you get the justice you deserve.