HIPAA laws enforced throughout Dubuque hospital - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

HIPAA laws enforced throughout Dubuque hospital

DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- Invasion of privacy. Some University of Iowa employees fired, found to have violated confidential medical records of hospitalized Hawkeyes. Now we talk with officials about patient privacy laws and the rules for all employees.

You'll remember on January 24th, 12 players were hospitalized from symptoms of rhabdomyolysis. The next day, a 13th player went to the hospital for treatment. Shortly after, Iowa officials learned there may have been a security breach, involving the players' confidential medical records. Thursday, three employees were fired for accessing the records electronically, inappropriately. They could face fines and jail time for their actions.

That's because the players were protected under the HIPAA law, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. It protects patients' confidentiality of medical information, and makes sure that information is not released by medical professionals

We spoke with officials at The Finley Hospital in Dubuque, they say each year staff members fill out confidentiality agreements. By signing, they agree not to share your password with others and that they won't access information without cause.

"It's becoming more and more important because the public is becoming more aware of that," Director of Health Information Management, Susan Haber said.

She says, now more than ever, patient privacy is just as much a part of the job as the rest, no matter what the case.

"It is extremely important that all staff, whether it be volunteers, nursing staff, physicians, anyone that has access to phi, which is protected health information, that they are only looking at that on a need to know basis," Haber said.

Haber says the hospital trains every employee about the rules of patient privacy. But she admits that in today's technologically savvy medical world, it's easy to access information.

"With Facebook and text messaging information can be transferred in a way that extremely fast," Haber said.

On the flip-side, she says it's that very technology that also makes it easy to track down.

"Information can be transferred in a way that extremely fast and the general public doesn't this that it can not be tracked but it definitely can be tracked and traced down to a person. Now you're able to go back and look at who has access this information, what time, what did they access and more specifics," Haber said.

And it's those specifics that will help keep patient privacy a priority. Under current law patient information can be transferred without consent for continued care and for payment purposes; like filing with an insurance company. That piece of the law is expected to change.

Online Reporter: Lauren Squires

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