Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Kate Middleton's Privacy

Royal Privacy

King Edward VII's Hospital
Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge becomes pregnant.  The complications from her pregnancy land her in King Edward VII Hospital in London where she is suffering from severe morning sickness.   DJ’s  Mel Greig and Michael Christian from an Australian radio show call the hospital pretending to be Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles.  They ask the nurse who answers the phone, as a prank for the radio station, if they can speak to Kate. A nurse, Jacintha Saldanha patches them through.
Another nurse, who has not yet been identified picks up the call and offers information about Kate’s condition.  Not realizing this is a prank, this nurse tells the DJ’s detailed information about Kate Middleton’s condition, on tape for all the listeners to hear.
Three days later, after most of the world heard the phone call on the news, Jacintha Saldanha, a nurse at that hospital for four years, and the mother of two teens is found dead from an apparent suicide.
Could this have happened here, in the United States?  Aren’t we “protected” by HIPAA so this information would / should never get out?  What did this nurse who answered the phone, or the nurse who gave out the information but didn’t kill herself actually do wrong?
The hospital policy, as one article wrote “forbids employees to patch phone calls through to the ward”.  This is the only place Saldanha committed any wrong doing.  The nurse, who gave out the information to the DJ’s may have gone a bit overboard in the details, but there too committed no offense. 
The privacy we may expect as a patient in the hospital is our right to ask that information not be shared with family or friends. If that request is not made, there is no public policy in place that protects patients from having a family member get information from the doctor or nurse about our condition, were we the patient.  Healthcare workers usually do not freely give out personal information over the phone to callers to protect the patient’s privacy or because it can get to time consuming to share details with everyone who might call.  But, the HIPAA laws do not protect us from that conversation – although over and over again, medical professionals use HIPAA as the reason they won’t share information about a patient with family or friends.
The nurse who did give out the details may be reprimanded for not using better judgment and Saldanha may have broken the rule about passing on a phone call.  But the only tragedy here is that a woman (that I know nothing else about) took her own life instead of apologizing and now her children don’t have their mother.
I hope that this will be used as an opportunity for people to decide now who you want to have your information were you to be hospitalized.  Who will be your advocate or support person and have that conversation with them about your expectations were you to be suddenly incapacitated.   Were Kate Middleton to have a patient advocate at her bedside, or helping her husband, Prince William know their rights to privacy, there is always a chance the outcome may have been very different.
Registration is now open for Long Island Family Centered Patient Advocacy Training, Registration
See the following links for more information about HIPAA:
LI Patient Safety Advisory Council Information
HIPAA: Everything You Want to Know about Patient Privacy but Are Afraid to Ask! US Department Health and Human Services For Consumers HIPAA Video 

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