HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, is legislation that provides data privacy and security provisions for safeguarding medical information. That’s not all it does — it also gives hospitals, doctors, rehab facilities an excuse to render medical care however they wish.
My client, an 83-year-old lady, suffers from COPD, Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) and kidney disease. She had been under the care of a pulmonologist who had her on two very new and expensive medications. She was doing fine; she had in-home care and loved her IPad on which she played bridge and watched Netflix movies.
On May 3, she fainted and 911 took her to a hospital and after five days discharged her into rehab. That’s where the nightmare began. The rehab put her on very different medications for her COPD and CHF. (Less expensive.)
I took the medicine list with me and showed them what she had been taking. The Rehab doctor kept her on the regimen he had first prescribed. I called her pulmonologist, spoke to his nurse and informed her of the situation. The nurse told me there was nothing they could do. Ergo, she stayed on those medications for her entire 13-day stay.
Three days after her rehab discharge, 911 took her to a completely different hospital. They also gave her the same tests and placed her on a new course of medication. Again I showed them the list and the doctor agreed to use one of the two drugs her pulmonologist prescribed. I called the pulmonologists office and again they did not interfere, citing HIPAA.
After four days in hospital No. 2 she was discharged home and within 72 hours back in a third hospital. This time it was the same hospital where her pulmonologist had offices. I called and was assured that they were on top of the situation. Yet, I had to send the list of medications — the pulmonologist couldn’t find them.
From May 3 to June 12, my client was shuttled from hospital, to rehab, to home, to hospital to home and back to the hospital. Each hospital did their own tests and medications even though I followed her to all these places with her medical records. She passed away on June 12, 2019.
HIPAA is not protecting our medical privacy, it’s an excuse for not sharing lifesaving information. Each time my client went to a new hospital, they did the same barrage of tests, came to the same conclusions yet, instead of calling the previous hospital or her doctor, used their own course of treatment. It did not matter that I was there with past records and medications.
Under HIPAA each hospital has its own electronic records system and, as a consequence, no information can easily be shared. What no one is asking is “what’s best for our senior patients?” It’s all about what’s best for our bottom line. This is senior exploitation — we’re calling it HIPAA protection.
Frances Reaves, Esq., a graduate of the University of Miami Law School, spent 10 years as a litigator/lobbyist. Today, she Is an accomplished business woman who, when her parents could no longer take care of themselves, learned the ins and outs of senior care (or the lack thereof). She founded Parent Your Parents to assist seniors and their children through the myriad pitfalls and options of “senior care” in the 21st Century. If you have any questions or comments contact Frances at firstname.lastname@example.org.