Electronic Medical Records: Did UPMC Violate My HIPPA Rights?

Confidential file folderYesterday I wrote about the phone message I received on Friday for a different Kelly Booth’s upcoming surgery. I have no relationship at all with the doctor’s office that pulled up my information in the UPMC system to call my number. My number is unlisted. There was absolutely no reason for M at Dr. X’s office to have access to my phone number. The other Kelly Booth certainly had her privacy rights violated – I now know who her doctor is and what date her surgery is scheduled for. Because I looked up the doctor, I know what type of surgeon he is and what specific disease she has or suspected of having. The other Kelly Booth’s privacy was violated because a nurse did not pay attention to whether or not she was leaving a message for the right Kelly Booth.

I do know that M is a nurse because Saturday afternoon, I called the number back and listened to her voice mail message. The number that was left was her direct line. I suspected that she was a nurse based on what she said in the original message but she did state that she was the nurse for Dr. X in her voice mail message.

Poor M. Besides leaving the message for the wrong Kelly Booth, she left the message for a Kelly Booth that is a blogger. A blogger that is concerned about health stuff. If she only knew!

In fairness here, I don‘t know that M looked at anything other than my name and phone number. But I also don’t know that she didn’t pull up other information about me. People are nosey. Having worked as a bean counter, I had access to a lot of private information. People had no qualms about coming right out and asking me questions about stuff that they knew that they had no right to know. Please don’t tell me that medical people are bound by HIPPA and they don’t do that stuff. I know for a fact that they do. Last summer, one of the women where I live went to her doctor to have a pregnancy test. The cousin of another woman that lives here worked at that doctor’s office. She told her cousin about the pregnancy and the cousin in turn told almost everyone who lives here. So much for HIPPA.

About two months ago, I read an article about different groups opposing a rule giving us access to knowing who is looking at our medical information. Of course, groups like the AMA are the ones opposing this ruling. Unfortunately, this article was not posted until after the period had closed for comments.

I have a feeling that I am not the only one that would like to know who is looking at my medical information. I also don’t feel that I should have to pay to get that information. My information is supposed to be private so why should I have to pay someone to find out who is looking.

I was particularly bothered by what the US Chamber of Commerce had to say about this matter – I am copying that paragraph from the article here. You can read the full article here:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Benefits Council weighed in as well, and wrote that “knowing who accessed information is unlikely to provide the individual with meaningful information to protect legitimate interests, and cannot justify such a sweeping expansion of accounting rights.”

The rule would give individuals access to specific names of people who have accessed their information, which the Chamber said wouldn’t be constructive, and could actually cause individuals to be targeted by angry patients.

How is not meaningful for me to know that people that have no business looking at my private information aren’t looking at it? As I stated in the article I wrote about the message M left me, UPMC has 15 hospitals and over 2,600 hundred doctors. Who knows how many nurses and lab people have access to my information? Shouldn’t I have the right to say who gets to see my records and who doesn’t? I went to a couple different doctors at UPMC but that should not give every doctor and every nurse that works for UPMC directly or one of those doctors the right to access my information.

I agree with part of what the Chamber said and I don’t feel that it is necessary for anyone to know that M’s last name is Smith and they can now look her up and potentially cause her harm. However, I should be able to look at my record and know that someone with the first name of M looked at my records at a Dr. X’s office. Because I have no relationship with Dr. X, then I know that there was no reason for that person to look at my records. For that matter, I wouldn’t care if Dr. X was responsible for assigning numbers to his employees and all I saw was that employee number 10 at Dr. X’s office looked at my records. I would still know that there was no reason for Dr. X’s employees to be looking at my records. If employee number 600 at UPMC Passavant looked at my records, I would also know that there was no reason for that to happen.

Losing my privacy is one of my biggest fears of electronic medical records. Allowing me to know who is viewing my records will help ease some of that fear. Groups like the AMA that claim I don’t need to know are not acting in my best interest.
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2 thoughts on “Electronic Medical Records: Did UPMC Violate My HIPPA Rights?

  1. Maybe I’m strange, but my privacy is just not a big issue with me. I don’t think I’m important or interesting enough for anybody to care when I have my toenails trimmed at my podiatrist’s office. Snoop through my records all you want, but anybody that does that must really have a boring life.

    • Jim, I agree with you that anyone that does that has a really boring life. It didn’t use to be anything that I worried about, but I had/have a stalker so it makes me nervous to know that person can very easily find out even more stuff about me.

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