Why HIPAA is widely misunderstood

Even before the advent of social media and the ease of the rapid spread of health misinformation, the HIPAA privacy law was often misinterpreted, The New York Times reported on July 23.

“I often joke that even though it’s five letters, HIPAA is treated like a four-letter word,” said I. Glenn Cohen, bioethics and health law expert at Harvard University. . Times. He said doctors, too, have often used it as a reason not to “do something they don’t want to do, like giving a patient certain information by saying – maybe believing it but being incorrect – “well, that would be a violation of HIPAA law. ‘”

Then-President Bill Clinton signed into HIPAA law in 1996; one aspect of the law prevents certain people and organizations, including health care providers, insurers and health data clearinghouses, from sharing a patient’s medical records without their express consent. However, the law is extremely “narrow,” Cohen said.

“Whenever someone tells you ‘HIPAA prohibits this,’ ask them to point out the part of the law or regulation that prohibits it. Often times they won’t be able to do it,” he said. -he declares.

Nothing in HIPAA precludes asking questions about someone’s health, like immunization status, but some have looked to the law to deflect the questions. In July, Mark Robinson, Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina, falsely claimed on Facebook that President Joe Biden’s door-to-door campaign to encourage COVID-19 vaccination and ask people if they had received the vaccine was illegal under HIPAA law, according to the report.

“HIPAA laws are real and they do something important,” said Tara Kirk Sell, assistant professor of health security at Johns Hopkins University, according to the report. “The misinterpretation of what this is about only adds to this storm of anti-vaccine sentiment.”

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