Protecting Patient Privacy

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How Important Is It – Really?

By Dr. David Edward Marcinko MBA

DEM blue

By Matthew Pelletier [safety consultant]

The U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is the federal law protecting the privacy and security of patients’ health information and was enacted in 1996.

HIPAA laws also protect electronically communicated information. Understanding the significance and importance of HIPAA laws is vital to all medical and health organizations. Companies are required to follow HIPAA laws and protect patient privacy.

Share and Share Alike – NOT!

The privacy rule is an important aspect of HIPAA and makes it illegal for patient’s private health information to be shared by health professionals unless the patient consents. This encompasses patient information which is written, verbal or electronically communicated. Many health care and medical organizations use healthcare training videos in order to educate their workforce on the importance of patient privacy laws.




As the infographic above illustrates, patient privacy is very important and the cost in breach of privacy can be costly:

• With 60% of hospitals having a minimum of 2 breaches in privacy the cost per hospital is estimated at $2 billion dollars.
• The average number of records which are lost or stolen in each violation of privacy is 1,769.
• The main causes of electronic patient information breaches is due to employees, portable electronic devices and third-party errors.
• 7 out of 10 hospitals don’t view patient privacy as a priority though it costs them money if breached.

With 38% of hospitals choosing not to inform anyone of patient privacy breaches while over 40% of breaches are only reported by the patients themselves, HIPAA violations can result in being very costly to medical and healthcare organizations, not just hospitals. HIPAA training videos are a solution to help the workforce understand the importance of patient privacy laws.



Your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. And, are these issues a moral equivalency? Does privacy even exist anymore in an era of social media, the Internet, Google Earth and Google Maps, etc.

Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.


Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Medical Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact:


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5 Responses

  1. CMS Delays Enforcing HIPAA Claims Standards

    The CMS has rolled back by three months the date it will begin enforcing new standards that health plans, claims clearinghouses, providers, and others must meet when checking insurance eligibility and the status of healthcare claims electronically.

    In making the announcement, the CMS said that the Jan. 1st, 2013 compliance deadline remains in place, but that enforcement won’t start until March 31. The rule affects hospitals, office-based physicians, health plans, claims clearinghouses, and all other “covered entities” under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

    Source: Joseph Conn, Modern Healthcare [1/4/13]


  2. The VA Hacked

    “VA Systems Hacked From Abroad – At Least 8 Nation-States Said to Be Behind Attacks” By Eric Chabrow, June 5, 2013.

    “In at least one incident, hackers encrypted the unencrypted VA data, making it impossible for the government to know exactly what information was exposed.”

    The VA’s is the largest health care system in the nation.

    Darrel K. Pruitt DDS


  3. NSA’s Call Surveillance Program Raises Privacy Fears

    Patients – What about citizens?

    The worst fears of many Americans were confirmed when new reports revealed last week that that the telecommunications companies were turning over immense volumes of domestic and foreign phone call data to the U.S. National Security Agency.



  4. Alaska’s privacy concern is but a bump in the road for Obamacare

    “Alaska’s Electronic Medical Record System Raises Privacy Concerns,” by Anchorage, Alaska’s Channel 2 News Staff, was posted this week on,0,3784315.story

    Alaskan citizens, like everyone else awaiting Obamacare’s online Health Insurance Exchanges (HIE), are also becoming increasingly aware of medical identity theft risks – many through data breach notifications from their doctors; offering to help monitor their endangered credit for a year or so. Interestingly, most patients’ identities are fumbled not by hospitals and providers, but by HIPAA Business Associates and other stakeholders… similar to non-profit HIE management companies like Alaska eHealth Network, the non-profit corporation chosen to manage Alaska’s HIE.

    Understandably, at least a few Alaskans want to know if they can opt-out of online health records – thereby eliminating virtually all risk of identity theft. On the other hand, the business survival of Alaska eHealth Network depends on the participation of virtually all Alaskans – including those who would opt-out if given the choice. The network’s executive director Rebecca Madison’s description of opting out warns of a hassle similar to standing in line at the DMV – before computers and air conditioning:

    “Wary patients can choose to opt-out of the system, but they must either notify their provider who will then inform the network, or go directly to Alaska eHealth and undergo an extensive authorization process.”

    Opposing Madison’s transparent disrespect for “wary” Alaskans, Joshua Decker, the interim executive director of the ACLU of Alaska tells, “it would be better for patients to have to opt-in to the system and make a conscious choice about their involvement.”

    Madison: “Everybody needs to weigh the risks and benefits for themselves. I firmly believe that we can’t avoid moving to electronic format for medical records. It’s going to happen. Providers are doing it all over the state and all over the nation.” It’s inevitable.

    Can you see how doctors’ and patients’ rights to object tend to be squashed under the mythic, unstoppable momentum of Obamacare?

    Similarly, in 2008, the President-elect of the American Dental Association told dentists that they will be forced to purchase the technology whether they want it or not: “The electronic health record may not be the result of changes of our choice. They are going to be mandated. No one is going to ask, ‘Do you want to do this?’ No, it’s going to be, ‘You have to do this.’” Capitulation.

    How can Obamacare not be tyranny when stakeholders count on it?

    D. Kellus Pruitt DDS


  5. On Patient Privacy

    “In the digital world, the most valuable information about you is anything that has to do with your mind or your body. It sells for far more than social security numbers on the black market. If you type anything into your phone, if you type anything into health surveys online, you’re just giving people this incredibly valuable information about you, and you don’t know how it will be used against you.”

    Deborah Peel MD
    [Founder – Patient Privacy Rights]


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