Some in Small Communities Displeased With HIPAA Privacy Regulations
The AP/Las Vegas Sun on Sunday examined how the privacy provision of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which makes a hospital liable if a patient's name is released without permission, has affected practices that once "helped neighbors stay connected" in small communities. Under HIPAA, which was enacted in April 2003, hospitals can still release the names of patients who have given their permission.
However, if patients wish to keep their names or other information private, hospital officials cannot reveal they are in the hospital. Shirley Clinton, a hospital privacy officer for Antelope Memorial Hospital in Nebraska -- which in 2003 shut off general access to patients' names -- said HIPAA "closed the openness that small communities have." However, Clinton added that the regulations have helped some patients who did not wish to be disturbed while in the hospital.
Rosemary Blackmon, a spokesperson for the Alabama Hospital Association, said that hospitals were phasing out the practice of publicly disseminating patients' names even before HIPAA.
Joan Wright -- owner, editor and publisher of the Neligh News & Leader in Nebraska -- said that when her newspaper stopped publishing hospitalized residents' names, she received a number of telephone calls from people complaining (Ruff, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 3/13).