Privacy Scenario

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A physical therapist receives a phone call from a woman demanding to know when her daughter-in-law’s next appointment is. The therapist tells the woman that she cannot disclose any information, and the woman becomes very angry and abusive, threatening to make a complaint. After the phone call, the therapist logs into the electronic medical record system to make a note about the conversation. However, since the two women share the same last name, the therapist accidentally accesses the woman’s record instead of the daughter-in-law’s record. The therapist realizes the mistake, but not before spotting that the woman suffers from a serious mental health disorder, which might explain her behavior on the phone. The therapist mentions to her supervisor the possibility of a complaint being brought and also mentions that the woman has a history of mental health problems. Do you feel that there has been a breach of confidentiality/HIPPA? Why or why not? How should the supervisor handle this situation? Should the patient be notified?

This webpage offers a series short videos on patient confidentiality.

https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-individuals/guidance-materials-for-consumers/index.html

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