Medical Social Workers must comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations, especially the Privacy Rule. HIPAA gives patients the right to access their medical records and ensures that identifiable health information is not shared without their written consent. In practice, medical social workers often face predicaments involving the disclosure of health information. Besides following HIPPA guidelines and policies in their daily work, medical social workers may be called upon to educate patients and their families about HIPAA regulations.
To prepare for this Discussion: Review the Week 2 resources and two case scenarios. Select one case from the two scenarios below and focus on the dilemma illustrated in the case.
Case Scenario 1:
You are a Medical Social Worker in an outpatient clinic at a major teaching hospital. A woman shows up at the clinic who states she is the mother of one of your patients. She states, “I am here to find out whether my son has been coming to his appointments. I am very worried because he is losing weight and sleeping a lot. He has been missing work. All I want to do is help him.” She goes on to say, “I don’t think he’s taking his medication. Can you tell me what meds he should be taking, so I can help him manage them better?”
Case Scenario 2:
You are a Medical Social Worker at a skilled nursing facility. You receive a phone call from a man who states he is one of your patient’s brothers. Your patient was admitted to the skilled nursing facility for rehabilitation after a long stay at an acute care hospital. In addition to his medical issues, your patient has rather severe mental health issues. The man on the phone is frantic and wants to know whether his brother is still a patient at the skilled nursing facility. He also asks about his brother’s condition and wants to speak to a staff member assigned to his care. The man on the phone explains that your patient’s mother just passed away. He needs to tell his brother, but does not want to do so unless his brother is able to handle the news.
1) Post your response to the following:
a) Provide a brief description of a Medical Social Worker’s responsibilities, under HIPAA guidelines, that apply to the case you selected.
b) Describe the rights of the person making the inquiry, and explain how you as a Medical Social Worker should respond.
c) Describe actions you might consider to safeguard your patient’s information and briefly describe your professional responsibilities to protect your patient in the case.
d) If you have worked in a setting where clients’ confidential information is needed, discuss whether you feel the confidentiality of their information could be handled better at your place of employment and what you would do differently if improvements are needed.