You know all those papers you have to sign when you are at your doctor's office? There are even more of them when you are admitted to the hospital. I remember the days before that HIPPA stuff all started. For those of you who may not know, this is the abbreviation for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. It is a federal regulation that essentially says that your medical records and all information regarding your health is private will be protected and that healthcare workers may not, under penalty of law, disclose anything about you. In other words, years after the concept of medical confidentiality was embraced, it was revisited on a higher level, assuring Americans that the most intimate details of their medical histories were not going any further than their treatment centers of choice. No faxes, no emails, no phone calls, no discussions. Nothing. You're protected and your healthcare systems are more careful than they have been in history, safeguarding your privacy.
If you are in the business of health care of have ever been, then you know about medical confidentiality. It probably wasn't even something that you had to be taught. Common courtesy or common sense dictates that you don't go around discussing what you have learned about anyone's health matters. I can recall being a young teenager, preparing for my Red Cross Nurses Aide certificate, being warned against about the harm that could be done should two little Candy Stripers discuss the "Man in Room 221" while on an elevator or even worse, on a public bus. For God's sake, Mrs. Man in Room 221 could be within earshot and maybe she thought her Man was on a business trip. Or even worse, maybe she didn't know he was as gravely ill as you did. So, young ladies about to enter the nursing world were taught to never discuss anything for any reason and it stuck.
My lessons in holding in confidence everything I saw or heard served me well when I became a corporate nurse. Oh, the temptation to tell "all" has been a great one but I can't forget that Red Cross instructor, her sharp pointy finger aimed right at our heads. And, I won't. And, I never did, not even when my own job seemed to be hanging on the tread of disclose or disembark from your lovely position. My answer always was "now you know I can't tell you that!" But geesh, if my walls could talk or yikes if the crew from "The Enquirer" ever showed up with a big wad of cash for a little story. I held my ground and upheld the confidentiality banner, stopping many an email trail of "concern" for a sick or injured employee somewhere in some part of the Colgate Palmolive "family". We just needed to know our employee was safe, under care, getting better, transported to a facility. We did not have to know all the details, and trust me, there were details.
So, today I emailed a well-meaning friend who has put us on a list of other well-meaning friends, asking him to please remove us from the list, to not send any more updates our way. A friend has taken ill. He has been ill for the past seven weeks, in a hospital in Paris. Mutual friends who are in Europe have been sending the updates. Here's the latest in what we do not need to know from people who, mind you, are not doctors:
His color is almost back to normal and the swelling in his left arm has greatly receded such that his hand is looking almost normal in skin texture and color.
I'm left wondering if the poor man has any idea that these people have violated his privacy to such a degree? Do we need to know this much about his illness? Wouldn't we be pleased to know that he is progressing? Why do we need these intimate details? I suspect that the reporters have some kind of a need to make themselves feel more important, to be on the inside, connected in some special way.I'm surprised they did not add "We walked on water to get to his bedside." And I'm left feeling very, very sorry for the man in the hospital bed, so far away from home and from his rights and I'm wondering if his friends who have done the deed ever gave a thought to HIPPA or just plain common courtesy and true compassion. By the way, that which I cut and pasted from the email is NOTHING compared to what they have already disclosed. All in the name of friendship? I wouldn't do that to my worst enemy. I know that if I did, that very mean Red Cross lady would have me arrested. Isn't that what HIPPA is supposed to do?