The U.S. Supreme Court has granted the Trump administration’s request to allow for exclusion of most transgender people from serving in the military while cases challenging that policy make their way to the high court. The current policy is a reversal of a 2016 decision by the Obama administration that opened the military to transgender service members.
Source: The New York Times, January 22, 2019
What About HIPAA?
Two Ohio firefighter-paramedics have been suspended for taking photographs of a medical patient and sending them to others without the patient's permission. According to news reports, a firefighter with eight years experience took the photos and video and sent them to another firefighter who then distributed them to others.
The firefighters were disciplined under a department rule "defining good behavior." But what about HIPAA?
HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, a federal law passed in 1996. The purpose of this law was to develop regulations protecting the privacy and security of certain health information. Specifically, the law protects patient's privacy for medical information that is gathered in person, or stored or transferred in hard copy or digital forms.
HIPAA applies to all health care providers, including firefighters and paramedics, and addresses issues of both privacy and security for patients. Protected health information (PHI) includes:
• the individual’s past, present or future physical or mental health or condition,
• the provision of health care to the individual, or
• the past, present, or future payment for the provision of health care to the individual, and that identifies the individual or for which there is a reasonable basis to believe can be used to identify the individual.
It should be noted that HIPAA applies only to health care providers and not citizens at large. Therefore, the sometimes heard claim that "You're violating HIPAA!" to bystanders taking video on their phones is usually not valid.
But the law is applicable to those in a position of trust to provide health care services, which paramedics clearly do. Taking pictures of a patient and passing them around on social media is almost certainly a violation of HIPAA-- a breach of federal law. The firefighters were lucky they were only suspended for their actions.
Sources: www.hhs.gov and The Columbus Dispatch, December 18, 2018
© Linda F. Willing, 2019