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Privacy, please!

Wednesday afternoon my wife and I stopped for lunch at a restaurant in downtown Princeton. Seated at the table adjacent to us, were three young women whom I gather work at doctor’s offices in town. Though no names were mentioned, the three talked openly about the health issues of several patients, their ages and physical description. They also discussed several patients who had converted to Medicare coverage and attributed specific remarks to one elderly woman in particular.

Obviously, I found their conversation unsettling, and I’m left with a nagging question.

Why is it that you require me to sign a medical information privacy/HIPAA form, when you talk about the health conditions of your patients in public in the presence of strangers? Do you think because you didn’t mention names that such conversation is appropriate and legal? I’ve heard the HIPAA spiel many times, and it is my understanding you are not permitted to share a patient’s private medical information with anyone, not even their spouse, without the patient’s signed approval on a HIPAA form!

If my wife and I still lived in Princeton, it is very likely we would have known some of the patients you were gossiping about.

Jack Helser



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