HIPPA rights violation with emergency contact

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Latest post Wed, Jun 12 2013 10:03 PM by Anonymous. 29 replies.
  • Sun, May 26 2013 10:08 PM

    HIPPA rights violation with emergency contact

    I have a question about what PHI can be disclosed to an emergency contact.  My mother was listed as my emergency contact at my neurologist's office.  I had a seizure early in the morning and had to go to the emergency room.  My neurologist's nurse called my mother and discussed my condition in great deal with her.  I did not sign a release of information to my mother.  I only wanted them to call her if I was dead.  I did not want my mother to be called at all otherwise.  My mother barely knows me. I don't get along with her.  I don't even spend time with her, but I would like her to know if I'm dead.  I have proof that this discussion took place.  I believe that the nurse was trying to explain to my mother that this was not an emergency situation at all.  My mother asked me what psychogenic meant and talked about my pain tolerance.  My mother has no prior knowlege and no prior exposure to medical terminology, so she had to have heard that word from the nurse.  My mother told me that the nurse told her that my seizure was psychogenic and that it was not an emergency.  I do not know what she told my mother but since then, my entire family has treated me like a stranger.  I have mentioned this to the nurse, and she blows me off, acting like it's no big deal.  Why did the nurse think that it was appropriate to call my mother, who is listed only as my emergency contact, to explain to her that I was in the emergency room for a non-emergency?  Why did she think that it was appropriate to discuss my PHI in great detail with her?  I've worked in healthcare.  I'm a Registered Respiratory Therapist and I've gone to many HIPPA meetings in my department.  From my understanding, the nurse had no legal right to disclose any PHI with my mother.  This gets worse.  I got a letter in the mail Friday that was dated 3 weeks ago.  It has the wrong address on it.  The letter states that the clinic will no longer treat me as of 30 days following the date on the letter.  I have no refills for medication.  I will die if I cannot get my medication.  They sent the letter to the wrong address, so now I have less than a week to get in to see a neurologist.  I can't find a new neurologist that fast, and if I did, it would take several months just to get an appointment.  I think that I am going to die.  My relationship with my family has been ruined due to the nurse disclosing my PHI with my mother.  I'm not ready to die.  I'm only 33 years old.  What should I do?  Was the disclosure of my PHI to my mother a HIPPA violation?  Could this be the reason why the clinic will no longer treat me?  Could they be anticipating a lawsuit from me?  I've never been disrespectful to my doctor or any staff member at the clinic, and I cannot figure out why they are doing this to me.  I'm going to die, and I can't do anything about it.  I didn't do anything wrong.  I'm so afraid.  I don't want to die.  If this is a HIPPA violation, do I have the right to file a lawsuit?  I've suffered greatly as a result of their actions.  I just don't understand and I'm freaking out.  I'm going to speak to the administrator of the clinic tomorrow because the letter was not from my doctor.  It was from administration.  I have to walk because my mother will no longer give me rides.  The last time that I tried to walk up there, I stepped off of a curb and twisted my ankle.  I had to literally hop with my walking stick back home.  After I recovered, I rode my tricycle about 6 miles in horrible pain so that I could buy minutes on my phone to call the clinic and tell them what happened.  The nurse told me that there weren't any appointments available, but she would contact me when there were.  She said that I could call and get refills until I could get in to see the doctor.  Three weeks later, I get this letter, and the letter is dated one day prior to my call to the nurse.  PLEASE HELP ME!!  I DON'T WANT TO DIE!!!  THESE PEOPLE HAVE RUINED THE GOOD RELATIONSHIP THAT I HAD WITH MY FAMILY AND NOW THEY THINK THAT IT IS APPROPRIATE TO LEAVE ME TO DIE!!!  I DON'T WANT TO DIE.

  • Sun, May 26 2013 10:28 PM In reply to

    Re: HIPPA rights violation with emergency contact

    You appear to have two separate issues here. First is the alleged HIPAA violation. HIPAA does not give you a right to sue for violations. Instead, the act is enforced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Thus, the only thing you can do under HIPAA is file a complaint with HHS. Information on how to do that may be found on the HHS website here: Filing a HIPAA complaint. The release of the information might also be a neglience claim under state that you could pursue against the doctor's office. But to win anything from that, you need to have damages that the law recognizes, like some kind of financial loss. Generally simply being alienated from your family isn't something the law compensates you for. You may discuss that with a personal injury lawyer.

    The other issue that you have is the delay in receiving the notice that your doctor is releasing you as a patient and will no longer treat you. In general, doctors are not obligated to treat anyone, but often they do at least have to give a prescription for current medications that will allow you some time to find a new provider. Giving you a 30 day supply is a common requirement, though I do not know specifically what Texas law requires. Depending on the exact facts and what harm, if any, you suffer, there might be a personal injury claim here as well.

    Your first priority, however, is ensuring you get proper treatment for whatever medical conditions you have. Try to get a refill for the medications you need and get an appointment with a new doctor ASAP. 

  • Mon, May 27 2013 10:03 AM In reply to

    • DPH
      Consumer
    • Top 10 Contributor
    • Joined on Mon, Oct 8 2001
    • TX
    • Posts 7,645

    Re: HIPPA rights violation with emergency contact

    LaTisha Reeves:
    I had a seizure early in the morning and had to go to the emergency room

    LaTisha Reeves:
    My mother was listed as my emergency contact

    Those two statements are at odds.  You listed your mother as the emergency contact and then you were sent to the ER.  Don't you think that would count as an emergency? 

    LaTisha Reeves:
    I only wanted them to call her if I was dead.
     

    Then you should have made that clear.  Did you make that clear?

     

     

    "Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience."  -  Mark Twain

     

  • Mon, May 27 2013 10:04 AM In reply to

    Re: HIPPA rights violation with emergency contact

    LaTisha Reeves:
    My mother was listed as my emergency contact at my neurologist's office.  I had a seizure early in the morning and had to go to the emergency room.  My neurologist's nurse called my mother and discussed my condition in great deal with her.  I did not sign a release of information to my mother.

    When it comes to an emergency contact under HIPAA you are giving permission to release information regarding the situation to that person you identified.  NO provider is going to call an emergency contact and say "This is Dr. Jones office and we are caring for Jane Doe who designated you as their emergency contact person.  There is an emergency.  Have a nice day!"  Then hang up.  The panic that would cause would be unimaginable.

    LaTisha Reeves:
    I only wanted them to call her if I was dead.  I did not want my mother to be called at all otherwise.  My mother barely knows me. I don't get along with her.  I don't even spend time with her, but I would like her to know if I'm dead. 

    LaTisha Reeves:
    I have to walk because my mother will no longer give me rides. 

    You are telling two different stories.  Originally you have no relationship with your bother and barely know her and later you are lamenting the loss of family relationships.  Clearly there is more going on in the family dynamics than the issue with this doctor's office and clinic.

    LaTisha Reeves:
    Was the disclosure of my PHI to my mother a HIPPA violation?  Could this be the reason why the clinic will no longer treat me? 

    I do not believe it was a HIPAA violation and if it is you cannot sue for it the recourse is a complaint through the Department of Health and Human Services.  

    Early you stated you had psychogenic seizures.  This is most likely why the neurologists office is no longer treating you.  I have been in neurology for almost 30 years and have epilepsy.  While pschogenic is an outdated term (currently physicians use non-epileptic behavioral events) the good news is you do NOT have seizures or epilepsy.  You are NOT going to die from these events.  That does not mean they are not very real to you and are causing a lot of anxiety.  It does mean that you do not need the services of a neurologist because this is not a neurological problem.  

    Stress manifests itself in many ways:  chest pains, hyperventilation, hives, and for some what appears to be seizures.  How a person copes with that stress is key.  Some drink or use drugs, some cut themselves, others have non-epileptic events all of which alleviate the anxiety and stress in the short term only to have it happen again and again.  Until the underlying reasons for the anxiety and stress are confronted and coping skills put in place the cycle repeats more often and for longer periods of time.

    LaTisha Reeves:
    PLEASE HELP ME!!  I DON'T WANT TO DIE!!!  THESE PEOPLE HAVE RUINED THE GOOD RELATIONSHIP THAT I HAD WITH MY FAMILY AND NOW THEY THINK THAT IT IS APPROPRIATE TO LEAVE ME TO DIE!!!  I DON'T WANT TO DIE.

    Take a deep breath.  The good news is you are NOT going to die no matter how much your anxiety is telling you that you are.  I do not know what medications you are taking but anti-epileptic medications are not going to control non-epileptic events but they are not medications you stop abruptly without consequences.  

    LaTisha Reeves:
    What should I do?

    The best recommendation I can give you is to contact your family practice doctor immediately.  They can arrange for a temporary refill of medications and to set up a tapering schedule for any that you do not need.  Believe me you DO NOT want to be taking anti-epileptics unless you have neurological seizures.  The medications are quite powerful and have some very nasty side effects.  

    The next thing I would ask him/her for is a referral to a reliable psychologist that uses CBT:  cognitive behavioral therapy.  I have had many patients who get past the non-epileptic events by undergoing as little as 12 weeks of CBT.  You can get a grip on this and take control of your life back but you have to embrace that you do NOT have epilepsy and there is work to be done to get control back in your hands instead of having it run your life.  Good luck, you can do this.

    "That's just my opinion, then again I might be wrong."  Dennis Miller

     

  • Mon, May 27 2013 3:28 PM In reply to

    Re: HIPPA rights violation with emergency contact

    I checked out the Texas Privacy Act (pretty sure that's what it is called) and it says that the damage claimed in a violation of the act doesn't have to be monetary.  It can include mental anguish, embarassment, and severe emotional distress, all of which I have experienced as a result of their negligence.  I'm not really interested in trying to sue this place.  I just hope that I can file a complaint like you recommended and get them the fine they deserve to pay.  There is no compensation that will fix what they have broken.  I can't afford to hire a lawyer anyway.  I will file a complaint for sure.  I can't do anything about my situation, but I might be able to keep this kind of thing from happening to another patient.  Thank you for your reply.

  • Mon, May 27 2013 3:35 PM In reply to

    Re: HIPPA rights violation with emergency contact

    Honestly, I don't know if it was an emergency situation or not.  From the bits and peices of information I can put together, the nurse was explaining to my mother that these seizures were not emergency episodes, but rather a psychological condition.  That's why I'm wondering why the nurse thought that it was appropriate to call my emergency contact for a non-emergency.  The nurse was on the phone with me when this happened, and she only told me to go to the ER to cover herself.  She does that almost every time I call the office with a problem.  I did specify that no information was to be released to my mother.  The woman who registered me at the clinic told me that they would only call my mother if I was incapacitated or dead.  I was neither when this situation occurred.  Texas state law requires written consent from the patient for any disclosure of PHI to an uncovered party.  My mother is an uncovered party, and they disclosed my PHI to her without my consent.  Thank you for your reply.

  • Mon, May 27 2013 3:49 PM In reply to

    Re: HIPPA rights violation with emergency contact

    Thank you for your reply!  I appreciate your sincerity and experience.  From what I understand, I have both types of seizures.  That's what I've been told by 3 neurologists.  I have a history of head injuries, as well.  I won't deny that there are family problems, but they were getting better.  After that phone call to my mother, everything changed.  It was the phone call that triggered their change in their behavior toward me.  I would love to be able to go and see a reputable psychiatrist and undergo CBT, but I cannot afford therapy.  I live on Social Security.  I did call the office 1 day after the date on the letter to tell them that I was doing much better and that I did think that a lot of these episodes are attributed directly to stress.  Since the phone call and family dynamic changes, I have chosed to terminate all contact with my family.  Surprisingly, this has eliminated a great amount of stress.  You're absolutely right about the medication.  I hate taking this stuff and I've been asking the doc to wean me off of it for 2 years.  He said that he won't because it does decrease seizure activity.  He put me on Klonopin, the freakin Valium of the century, and I hate taking this stuff.  It makes me feel like a zombie but I go completely insane if I accidentally forget to take it.  Right now I'm crying and shaking because I cut the pill in half so I won't run out before I find another doc.

    Again, thank you so much for your encouragement and sincere reply.  I've viewed a lot of discussion forums on this site, and some people are very arrogant and disrespectful.  I know that I can trust your opinion because you cared enough to take the time to explain all of this to me.  This is not about revenge or compensation to me.  It's a matter of accountability and negligence.  There is no easy way out, but there is a way out.  I believe you.

  • Mon, May 27 2013 3:57 PM In reply to

    Re: HIPPA rights violation with emergency contact

    Reach out to a family practice physician.  They have emergency appointments typically within 72 hours.  If you explain you need a 30 day supply until you can find a new neurologist they should be able to help out.  

    LaTisha Reeves:
    Right now I'm crying and shaking because I cut the pill in half so I won't run out before I find another doc.

    DO NOT panic.  Many patients take a smaller does at times and that shouldn't cause major problems.  It is stopping medications "cold turkey" that is more dangerous.  

    Another option is to speak calmy the Administrator and explain that for what ever reason the letter terminating your care was sent to the wrong address and you did not recieve it for 3 weeks.  I would ask for a courtesy 30 day prescription so that you can find another physician.  They should be able to help with that as well.

    You do not need a psychiatrist for CBT and in fact few practice it.  Many psychologists and therapists with masters in social work and psychology offer CBT at reasonable prices.  Some as low as $50 a visit.  Start calling and you should be able to find someone who can help.

    "That's just my opinion, then again I might be wrong."  Dennis Miller

     

  • Mon, May 27 2013 4:19 PM In reply to

    Re: HIPPA rights violation with emergency contact

    Thank you for your reply.  The clinic is several miles away, so I need to get up early and walk there.  Even after that, I seriously doubt that I will be allowed to speak to an administrator.  No matter how calm I am, I'm pretty sure they will call the police if I demand to speak to an administrator.  At this point, the only option that I have as far as getting an emergency appointment with a family physician is to go to Texas Tech.  I hate going there because all these docs in training just completed their God Complex class and are very condescending toward their patients.  I guess I really don't have a choice now.  I do have to see a psychiatrist because I am taking medication on a regular basis.  My copay is $40, and I can't even afford to make that in one payment.  My first priority is going to be settling things with the clinic and asking them to fully explain why they are doing this to me.  I think they owe me that.  My Social Security is reviewed every 2 yrs, and they demand medical records.  If I don't see a doc, I can't prove that I still have a disability.  I will lose my income and be homeless.  My mother is a town gossip and the entire city knows that I have a seizure disorder, so now I definitely cannot find a job in this area.  I can't afford to move either.  If I try to go back to work, I will be fired for having a seizure on the job.  In Texas, an employer can fire someone without reason at any time, and they do so.  I want this clinic held accountable for what they have done, as far as disclosing my PHI, and I do have the right to file a personal injury suit even though the damage done was not monetary or physical in nature.  The damage must be proven and mental anguish, embarassment, and severe emotional distress are all considered damages.

  • Mon, May 27 2013 4:28 PM In reply to

    • cbg
      Consumer
    • Top 25 Contributor
    • Joined on Thu, Dec 21 2000
    • MA
    • Posts 6,857

    Re: HIPPA rights violation with emergency contact

    Hold the phone there a minute. 49 out of 50 states, including Texas, practice the at-will doctrine but it's by no means as broad as you seem to think. You cannot legally be fired for having a disability, which can very easily include a seizure disorder. Not even in Texas. It would be very difficult to fire you, legally, for no reason other than that you had a seizure on the job.

  • Mon, May 27 2013 11:47 PM In reply to

    Re: HIPPA rights violation with emergency contact

    I have been legally fired for having a seizure on the job, twice.  This happened in Tennessee and in Texas.  It took 1 seizure.  That was it.  They fired me because I didn't tell them about my seizure disorder, I had to leave work early, and I had not yet completed a 4 month probationary period.  I'm a Registered Respiratory Therapist and the nature of my work makes hospitals see me as a liability even though I am not a legal liability to the hospital.  I've been told to give up on that career by several people.  Nobdoy will hire me if I tell them I have seizures.  On the other hand, I get all kinds of calls back from all over the country when I don't disclose the fact that I have a seizure disorder.  If I move away to take one of those job offeres and try to go back to work, I will lose my Social Security with my very first paycheck.  Then I'll end up having to leave work early and again I will be fired for violating the terms of the probationary period.  No employer is gonna come right out and say you're fired because you have a disability.  They can make up any excuse they want.  For me, they used the excuse that I had to leave work early and that was a no no during the probationary period no matter what.  I've tried to file discrimination charges.  It's almost impossible to prove.  I've consulted several local lawyers about that.  The career expert at my Social Security hearing told me not to be surprised when people start to discriminate against me.  He told me that the only way that I could keep a job would be to somehow hide my symptoms and not ever tell anyone that I've had a seizure.  When discrimination comes into play, the law means nothing to a hospital.

  • Mon, May 27 2013 11:52 PM In reply to

    Re: HIPPA rights violation with emergency contact

    Just curious, what's with the Mark Twain quote?  Do you add that to every post or are you using passive aggression toward me?  That's kinda what it feels like.  Forgive me if I am mistaken.

  • Tue, May 28 2013 1:47 AM In reply to


    Re: HIPPA rights violation with emergency contact

    LaTisha Reeves:
    I want this clinic held accountable for what they have done, as far as disclosing my PHI, and I do have the right to file a personal injury suit even though the damage done was not monetary or physical in nature.  The damage must be proven and mental anguish, embarassment, and severe emotional distress are all considered damages.

    Sorry, but the HIPAA provisions do not give you a private right to sue.  All you can do is file a complaint with DHHS.

  • Tue, May 28 2013 1:54 AM In reply to

    Re: HIPPA rights violation with emergency contact

    LaTisha Reeves:
    Just curious, what's with the Mark Twain quote?  Do you add that to every post or are you using passive aggression toward me?  That's kinda what it feels like.  Forgive me if I am mistaken.

    That quote is included in DPH's signature block, so it's automatically added to every post he or she puts on this site. It's nothing personally directed to you.

  • Tue, May 28 2013 2:21 AM In reply to

    Re: HIPPA rights violation with emergency contact

    Haha, please forgive me for being so sensitive.  That's messed up to put that on every post.  I don't want it on mine.  If I wanna talk to Mark Twain I'll find myself a medium.

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