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One Of Life

One Of Life's Most Embarrassing Moments

Legal HIMformation
(June 2007)

In March of this year, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled on the propriety of a trial court judge's order permitting access to a deceased patient's medical records.  Holmes, Adm'r of the Estate of Elam, v. Hon. R. B. Nightingale, ? P.3d ?, 2007 WL 841340 (Okla.), 2007 OK 15 (Mar. 20, 2007).  This kind of case, reviewing the propriety of a judge's order, is routine, as is the subject matter of the original trial court hearing.  What is not routine is the manner in which the Oklahoma Supreme Court took the bar, and the health care industry, to task for its slipshod compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, better known to most of us as "HIPAA."  I deliberately say "most of us" because of the Court's statement in the Holmes case, which I reproduce verbatim below:

Although we have chosen to refer to the Act in its shorthand form as "HIPAA," we note that legal research reveals that the Act has been referred to by other courts as "HIPPA" and "HIPA" and that, in common parlance, the most prevalent reference appears to be to "HIPPA"-especially in the examination of patient rights' forms which also reveal the same inconsistencies.
2007 WL 841340 at *1, fn 2 (emphasis added).

Apparently, the healthcare provider's own forms at issue in this case did not spell "HIPAA" correctly.  Who knows what other mistakes in compliance were present?  The Court reminds us that, oftentimes, we in the HIM industry are the ones responsible for creating misinformation and confusion about HIPAA, its application, and compliance with its mandates.

If we're guilty, shame on us.

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