We tend to avoid the doctor or hospitals unless we absolutely need one. Besides the germs and bad hospital food, there’s all that confusing paperwork to deal with. But eventually you or a loved one will need to visit the doctor or hospital for your health – and you may encounter some legal red tape that makes matters even stickier.
Sometimes the red tape is simply hospital policy gone too far. Regardless, navigating the maze requires doing your homework ahead of time. For example, what do you know about HIPAA?
HIPAA is the “Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1997.” The title of a recent article in the New Old Age Blog of The New York Times summarizes the issue well: “A Privacy Law Often Misinterpreted.”
One purpose of the law is to ensure the privacy of medical data. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean the hospital is intended to protect the privacy of the patient from their loved ones, especially when that loved one is present during an examination! In fact, HIPAA does not prevent health care providers from sharing relevant information regarding a patient with their family members, unless the patient objects.
The original article is a worthy and enlightening read, whether you are a patient, a family member or even a medical professional. Apparently, there is a lot of misinformation leading to misinterpretation when it comes to HIPAA.
Bottom line: make sure you have up-to-date Advance Health Directives that specifically provide your designated agents with current and future access to all of your medical information, verbal and written, with specific authority to execute HIPAA releases on your behalf.