Misinterpretation of HIPAA Privacy Rule Leads to “Code of Silence”

July 22, 2015 | Strategic Insights for Health System


The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy rule has become "an all-purpose excuse for things people don't want to talk about," according to an expert quoted in a July 17, 2015, New York Times article. The article recounts examples of situations in which nurses and other providers have cited the HIPAA privacy rule as the reason that information could not be shared with family members, caregivers, and others, even when such sharing would not actually have violated the rule. For example, a woman tried to inform emergency department staff about a medication allergy concern for her mother, who was a patient at the time, but was told by a nurse that the nurse could not take the information because of HIPAA—a clear misinterpretation of a rule that is intended to protect how information is disclosed by providers, not how it is received.

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