Articles Address Information Privacy and Liability Issues Related to Disaster Response Efforts

May 21, 2014 | Strategic Insights for Health System


​Healthcare risk managers may be interested in a May 15, 2014, New York Times article that explores various federal and state programs in which officials scour Medicare and other protected health information to identify potentially vulnerable people and share their names with local public health authorities for outreach during emergencies. According to the article, many physicians see the programs as necessary when potential disasters are imminent, as patients such as those who receive kidney dialysis can be advised to seek early treatment because clinics will be closing and as others who rely on breathing machines at home can be told how to find help if the power goes out. But, however well-intentioned, others find the programs troubling, citing issues related to the invasiveness of using protected patient information this way and other issues, including the need to protect "stigmatized groups" who might need help in emergencies, such as those with mental illnesses or intellectual disabilities or those who are obese. In other news related to disaster response, an article published May 1, 2014, in the Bulletin of the American College of Surgeons discusses the need for liability reforms to provide timely care to patients during disasters.

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