When TMI Is a Good Idea

by Evil HR Lady on March 21, 2016

I’m going through a nasty divorce. My soon to be ex has 3 families willing to file HIPAA complaints at the hospital where I am a nurse case manager and have worked for 24 years. I don’t know what the supposed complaints are, and I don’t recall ever violating PHI to him or anyone else. Can he just tell people things I supposedly said?? I’m truly worried this may affect my ability to provide for my son. Any advice??

Normally, I’m all about keeping personal drama personal. You don’t want to be labled as the drama queen. he can say anything he wants and that will put you in a situation where you are forced to defend yourself. And remember, he can say, “I’m going through a nasty divorce and my wife has been threatening to expose…”

You need to get in front of this. Your ex and his adorable family are all about destroying your life, so you need to bring a little drama into the workplace. It’s time to share.

Not with everyone, mind you, but there are some people who absolutely, positively need to know. Now, I’m not an expert in HIPAA, but I presume there’s someone who is tasked with HIPAA compliance. You need to tell the following 3 people (or organizations) what is going on:

Your direct manager

Your HR manager

Your  HIPAA compliance person.

What to say? You still don’t need to explain all the hairy details, but do say what you are afraid might happen. Something like this: “I’m in the middle of a divorce and it’s taken a rather nasty turn. My husband, John Doe and his family, Jane Smith, Steve Doe, and Candace Brown, have threatened to call here and complain that I have violated HIPAA by accessing their files. I don’t have any idea if they will carry through on this, but I wanted you to be aware. I have not improperly accessed any patient records and I take my responsibility for patient privacy very seriously.”

They will probably ask you a few additional questions, and your ex’s family might still make things difficult for you at work, but having it on the record is your best bet for protecting yourself.

Good luck with everything!

 

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenn Sadai March 21, 2016 at 12:42 pm

That’s a tough situation, but I think your advice is spot on. Always best to give employers a heads up. They will be more likely to trust your side of things if they hear about it from you rather than your ex.

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Joyce Morrison March 21, 2016 at 2:07 pm

I encountered a similar situation where an ex claimed our employee accessed his and his new wife’s driving records. (The Driver Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) is similar to HIPPA.) After reviewing our records we were able to prove that our employee had not accessed the driving record. Still stressful for our employee, but I was able to fast track the investigation because it was so easy to prove the allegation was false.

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Leah March 21, 2016 at 3:07 pm

The audit trail for the records should cover you and prove you did nothing wrong, but the process can be horrible. Some hospitals, like ours, even put employees on suspension while they do the review. It’s usually paid, but it’s unnerving and I dislike the message it sends.
I hope your organization is understanding and you pull through this okay.

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