Court OKs Police Access to Hospitalized Crime Victims
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act allows hospitals to provide police with access to patients who are victims of alleged crimes, U.S. District Judge Tucker Melancon ruled on Friday, the AP/Dayton Daily News reports (AP/Dayton Daily News, 4/3).
The HIPAA Federal Privacy Rule, implemented in 2003, allows health care providers to share patient medical records for the purposes of treatment and other "health care operations." Providers do not have to obtain written consent before they disclose medical records but are required to inform patients of their rights and make a "good-faith effort" to obtain written acknowledgment from patients that they have received the information.
Providers must obtain consent from patients before they can disclose medical records in "nonroutine" cases (California Healthline, 10/23/06).
In the case, Elizabeth Maier, a hospital case manager at Lafayette General Medical Center in Lafayette, La., filed a lawsuit against police after she was charged with obstruction of justice for her refusal to identify a patient who was the victim of alleged domestic abuse.
The 66-year-old patient told nurses that her husband had abused her but told Maier that she did not want to report the incident to police. However, a nurse had called 911, and two police officers visited the hospital to question the patient.
In the lawsuit, Maier argued that, under HIPAA, hospitals cannot report incidents of domestic abuse against mentally competent adult patients without their consent.
In his decision, Melancon dismissed the lawsuit and ruled that HIPAA does not block the collection of information by police about crimes (AP/Dayton Daily News, 4/3).