Have the Urge to Take a Peek at a Medical Record? DON'T!!!!
Are you employed in a medical setting, working in a hospital, medical practice, ambulatory surgery center, clinic, or any place where medical treatment is rendered, or medical services provided? Whether you are employed as a healthcare professional, medical assistant, office staff member – indeed, in any capacity – you may feel the urge, for curiosity, to check something for a personal reason, or whatever, to take a peek at a patient’s medical chart or other healthcare records. Unless you are involved in some capacity providing treatment to the patient in question and have some legitimate medical reason or need to view a patient's medical records or have some other reason relating to the patient’s care, DO NOT attempt to gain access to or view a patient's medical records.
Gaining access to medical records without proper authorization and some medical reason or necessity is a serious violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”). Say a neighbor is a patient at your facility. You are not involved whatsoever in your neighbor’s care or treatment, but you are curious about why he is being treated. Say an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend is a patient, and you want to see what they are being treated for, even though you’re not involved in the patient’s treatment. Say a celebrity becomes a patient at your facility. Again, you are not involved at all in the patient's treatment, but you want to check out their chart. These are all serious violations of HIPAA.
It is no excuse that you had some personal “reason” for gaining access to the records. HIPAA requires medical facilities to act against unauthorized access to protected health information, so your employment is likely to be terminated. You may be subject to civil penalties ranging from fines that could be as high as $25,000 per violation, plus possible criminal liability if the violation is found to have been willful and malicious (such as not merely looking at the information but downloading it and posting on a public forum) or doing it for personal gain.
If you would like a consultation on this or any legal matter, do not hesitate to contact Scaringi Law at 717-657-7770.