Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Latest Posts

First Monetary HIPAA Fine Issued

Via the Threatpost article “HIPAA Bares Its Teeth: $4.3m Fine For Privacy Violation“:

The health care industry’s toothless tiger finally bared its teeth, as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a $4.3 m fine to a Maryland health care provider for violations of the HIPAA Privacy Rule. The action is the first monetary fine issued since the Act was passed in 1996.

A copy of a penalty notice against Cignet depicts a two-year effort in which HHS struggled with what appears to be a dysfunctional Maryland provider unaware of the potential impact of HIPAA non-compliance, and unwilling or unable to cooperate with HHS in any way.

When first reading the title I was willing to rail against HIPAA, as I’m tired of it. Then I read the post. Wow. It’s like a test case designed to see just how far you could push HHS, and frankly how incompetent you can be while pushing. Seems HHS was having trouble getting Cignet’s attention. I bet they have it now.

*This blog post was originally published at GruntDoc*

Healthcare’s Facebook

[Recently] the Wall Street Journal‘s front page story exposed a significant privacy breech of online personal information via the world’s most popular social networking site, Facebook:

Many of the most popular applications, or “apps,” on the social-networking site Facebook Inc. have been transmitting identifying information—in effect, providing access to people’s names and, in some cases, their friends’ names—to dozens of advertising and Internet tracking companies, a Wall Street Journal investigation has found.

The issue affects tens of millions of Facebook app users, including people who set their profiles to Facebook’s strictest privacy settings. The practice breaks Facebook’s rules, and renews questions about its ability to keep identifiable information about its users’ activities secure.

How could they? Imagine the nerve of marketers using Facebook ID’s to develop profiles on people using little socializing games! Facebook has a privacy policy! I was assured that if I set my privacy settings to “maximum,” this would never happen! To which I say: “Duh!” When it comes to money, people get awfully creative.

So while Facebook grapples with its latest public relations nightmare, we should realize our electronic medical record app vendors are doing exactly the same thing. Worse, it’s perfectly legal, even though each of use has been assured our privacy settings are set to “maximum” through the reassurances of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and the The Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act of 2005 (PSQIA). Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Wes*

Healthcare Advice For College-Bound Kids

Sending a child off to college? Call your lawyer first. From the Weekend Wall Street Journal:

After a few clients ran into difficulty getting information about adult children who were ill, Sheila Benninger, an attorney in Chapel Hill, N.C., began recommending that clients’ children designate a health-care power of attorney after they turn 18 to identify who can speak for them if they can’t.

She also includes a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, release form that allows patients to determine who can receive information about their medical care and whether information about treatment for substance abuse, mental health or sexually transmitted diseases can be disclosed.

You don’t have to use a lawyer. Generic health-care power-of-attorney forms can be found online. If the school has a HIPAA release online, it’s best to use that more-tailored document.

Parents should keep a copy in an email folder, where it can be easily accessed in an emergency. And students should designate a general power of attorney so someone can pay bills or handle other issues if they go abroad.

It’s good advice for those of us shipping one more child back to college this week.

-WesMusings of a cardiologist and cardiac electrophysiologist.

Hat tip: Instapundit

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Wes*

Patient-Doctor Facebook “Friends” Could Be A HIPAA Violation

Should you friend your doctor on Facebook? It’s a question that’s gaining increasing relevance as Facebook increases its social networking dominance. I’ve touched upon the issue in the past. So has the New England Journal of Medicine.

Washington, DC, physician Katherine Chretian gives her take on the issue in a recent USA Today op-ed. She is an expert of the Facebook-medicine intersection, having authored a JAMA study on the issue.

She says, no, doctors should not be friending their patients:

Having a so-called dual relationship with a patient — that is, a financial, social or professional relationship in addition to the therapeutic relationship — can lead to serious ethical issues and potentially impair professional judgment. We need professional boundaries to do our job well.

Furthermore, there’s the little matter of patient privacy and HIPAA. I wasn’t aware of this, but simply becoming Facebook friends with patients can infringe upon uncertain ground. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »