A February 2019 report confirms that Acacia Health Center failed to keep residents’ personal and medical records private and confidential. (F 0583)
The problem happened after a staff member mixed up medical records between two patients. In error, the staff member placed several documents which belonged to resident A into a package containing resident B’s medical records.
The package which was supposed to have contained resident B’s medical records was then forwarded to an offsite physician’s office, where resident B was headed for an appointment. The physician discovered the medical documents in the package on arrival.
Documents are typically packaged in accordance with a checklist, a task which is normally done by a nurse but was done by another staff member at this time.
The regular course of action is that the resident, the resident’s family member or an authorized driver will take the medical records package from a nurse and give it to the physician.
The person who puts together the packet is in charge of checking that all documents are correct and included in the packet, with the checklist in place as a means of confirming both correctness and confidentiality.
Nursing Home Medical Records and the Law
Per the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) health information is to remain private and confidential. The Nursing Home Reform Act (NHRA) states that nursing homes are required to safeguard all medical records per patient confidentiality on behalf of residents.
Federal Regulations FDC 483.10 (8)(iii)(d) state that:
(h) The resident has a right to personal privacy and confidentiality of his or her personal and medical records.
(2) The facility must respect the residents right to personal privacy, including the right to privacy in his or her oral (that is, spoken), written, and electronic communications.
(3) The resident has a right to secure and confidential personal and medical records.
It is against the law and the potential consequences of inaccurate record keeping in any form could be dire, leading to severe injury and death.
The report concludes that “Review of the facility’s policy titled Privacy Notice revealed the facility is required by law to maintain the privacy of Protected Health Information (PHI).”
The corrective plan of action for the facility is to safeguard the personal privacy of all residents, and ensure their medical records are limited only to authorized staff.
Privacy Violations Happen Regularly in Nursing Homes
There are many different ways that your loved one’s privacy could be violated — for instance:
● Photo and video sharing
● Employee gossip about patients
● General mishandling records — for instance, leaving them out in a public area
● Confirming patient information through text messages or on home computers
● Unauthorized employees accessing patient files
● Fraudulent signatures or records — for instance, if a nursing home is trying to cover up an error
Luckily, in this case, records mishandling did not result in outright harm to any patients. But medical records might include anything related to history, lifestyle, past operations, lab results, prescriptions, or genetics. A patient’s right to privacy must be upheld by any medical practitioner that treats the aforementioned patient.
If you are unsure about the privacy and confidentiality of a resident at a nursing home, reach out to one of our trusted attorneys for a free consultation.