HIPAA: Help I’m Panicking And Annoyed

This is not new. HIPAA laws went into effect in early 2000. So, why was I tossing and turning last night? First, because I do that. Second, because come September 23, the “crack down” begins.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely understand, respect and believe in the need to protect patient’s privacy. I think it is a crime that people’s health history is used against them in so many arenas of our advanced society. In fact, I go to great and painful lengths to protect my patients information: not just in my office, but in my blog. We just spent tens of thousands of dollars on a fire/flood proof room for paper records. The entire building could be turned to dust and not one shred of paper in a medical chart would be harmed. We installed “medical grade” insulation (there is such a thing) to sound proof our exam rooms. During construction, I stood on the other side of a wall and screamed nonsense to my GC to ensure that not one word was decipherable.

So, when I am told by the powers that be in our government to “circle 9/23/13 on my calender” because they are coming after me and I better be ready, I am, to say the least irritated.

First, the consequences of a breach could be huge: up to $1.5 million fine plus jail time. Second, my/our intentions don’t really count for much. So, just because we mean to, try our very best to, and spend tons of money to protect information, we could still be out of compliance and worse IN JAIL?? Seriously, does anyone else see the problem with this?

In my daily work, I wake up every day, slug coffee and say a short prayer (honest to God truth.) It is this: Please, God, let me do good by everyone I see today.

Never once has that prayer been countered by an evil: Muhahhhaahhaaaa, I think I will disburse someones medical information today.

I spent most of yesterday afternoon switching to a HIPAA compliant email provider. It took hours to go through the process. There were glitches. There was frustration. I may have hung up on one customer service rep. “What the hell do you mean I have already used my 10 free hours of support time? I called you 10 minutes ago!!” In the end, we have a compliant and secure way to email our patients. That can only be good.

I just wish I didn’t have this nervous, gotta-poop, kind of feeling about the whole thing. I would really like to wake up, drink my coffee, say my prayer and go do the work I live my life to do–without worrying about how I would survive in an orange jump suit for months at a time.


  1. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for going to the trouble just so that you could stay in electronic contact with us. That is one huge reason why we love you! I work in Healthcare IT and am well aware of HIPAA. That hasn’t stopped me from sending you an email to ask a question. I appreciate what you are doing for us!

  2. I’m so glad you’re my doctor. ❤

  3. Anonymous says:

    God forbid u should make mistake off u go to the orange jump suit ( not a good color on u btw) I do know the feeling the government just change the rules on the transportion ind as well and I tried to walk on water that didn’t work out to well I got wet. My fav saying from the DOT is you should have tried harder. aw yeah right.
    Don’t worry about it I’m sure as I’m sitting here you will be fine and get a big JOB WELL done. or that old atta ( not a real word that’s from the English teacher I have at the house) girl. lol

  4. I agree with Jo – I am very, very thankful you are my doctor. And I appreciate all your honest frustrations. The hoops we have to jump through for insurance and HIPAA is sometimes ridiculous. Yet you and your office still manage to do the job WELL and thoroughly. I cannot say that I feel that way about many doctor’s offices.

  5. After thinking it all through and reliving the past 30 years of my healthcare career in my mind, I must say that I long for the days of paper charts and records.

  6. I feel for you. I worked hospital/ER/switchboard registration back after HIPAA came into effect. It is stressful! I can only imagine how much more weight lays on you shoulders. I am sorry. It is rough because I see two sides of it. I see all too often HIPAA violations by Dr.’s offices, not purposeful, but also difficult to avoid and I cringe. I especially cringe when it is me at that front desk and they ask for child’s name, age, DOB, why we are there, etc. where EVERY ONE in that room can hear. I sit there as they call patients, refuse to tell the person who answers who they are for “HIPAA reasons” then hear their whole side of the conversation. Some of it is unavoidable and some of it is just not thinking. I couldn’t do it anymore, especially with the new crackdown. I would have a nervous breakdown.

  7. Oh Heather! Where have you been my whole life! That is exactly what I mean. We should be focusing on the obvious, simple things. I was just talking to Amy (my NP) yesterday about how I can hear one of my receptionists from a mile away. It seems like the more flustered and busy they get, the louder they get. Then, there is a general IGNORANCE about what HIPAA means: my staff is NOT violating HIPAA by telling patients who THEY are!! Now it seems like everyone just throws that acronym around when it’s convenient. I heard someone tell a patient that they could not have a copy of THEIR results because of HIPAA.Hello! It IS THEIR MEDICAL RECORD–to have, hold, pour over, or burn….it is theirs! HELP ME!!

  8. Anonymous says:

    In spite of HIPPA patients may have to sign in at a front desk at most offices. I get very irritated with this. It would be very easy to just take a number or something similar, then show an insurance card when called. That way only the patient and front desk personnel know who is in their waiting room. I have also viewed “lists” of patients for the day clearly visible on front desks and have overheard staff calling patients and using their names for all to hear. This is not in reference to Dr. Meyer.

  9. I work w/ Benefits for a living and we all want to poop our pants when an audit comes through. You’ve done all you can to get it right – it will work out.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Your use of the phrase “nervous, gotta-poop, kind of feeling” makes me think I should be switching to you as my doctor. Thank you for this blog. I, too, often wonder where HIPAA is when I hear patients’ names being used so openly in MD offices with a waiting room well within earshot. At the same time, I trust that most providers are making an honest effort to protect their patients. Front office staff may just need some reminders in offices in which HIPAA didn’t exist during the design phase.

    • Yes. Right you are. We are screaming a patients name and the drug they need refilled across an open room for all to hear. It does not much matter then that their medical chart is password protected, encrypted and needs a retinal scan to get to.

  11. Sandra Kowalski says:

    Hi Christine – I have been working in Pharma for more than 20 years and I still say whoever wrote the HIPAA laws have never been in a medical emergency! I certianly would not like my entire medical record on the front page of the NYT, but they need someone with a real view of life to look at these laws before they pass them. I’ve been to your office and I’ve never seen a more well run office. I’ve been to ERs, Nursing Homes and Hosptials that if I didn’t know better, seem like they never heard of HIPAA. Hang in there Christine. You, if anyone, are not only a wonderful physician, but a caring doctor. That is why I switched to you!

  12. The HIPAA laws at times seem so crazy. At times they seem like they do more harm than good. Glad you went the extra mile!

  13. This is so funny, because while HIPAA is obviously different, I’m at Starbucks working on my laptop and just listened to an attorney talk through a case with a client over the phone at the table behind me. As a casual observer, I overheard almost everything since he’s literally right there. Client/Attorney privilege? Hmmmm… In this day and age, it seems information leaks from everywhere! Anyways, sounds like you’re secure and have nothing to worry about so stop the tossing and turning and get some sleep. Doctor’s orders, haha!


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