Health Information Management

Protecting patient privacy in an epidemic

HIM-HIPAA Insider, August 10, 2015

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Emory University Hospital in Atlanta was thrust into the international spotlight in the summer of 2014 as the world anxiously watched first one, then two, then three humanitarian workers infected with the Ebola virus return from West Africa to the United States for treatment as the months dragged on and public anxiety soared. The fourth patient treated at Emory was a nurse who became infected while caring for an Ebola patient at a Texas hospital.
All four patients survived the deadly disease, and central to the hospital's effortsas hundreds of news media outlets tried to ferret scraps of information from spokespeople, doctors, nurses, and whoever else they could track down—was a comprehensive strategy to protect those patients' privacy.
Anne Adams, JD, the chief compliance and privacy officer for Emory Healthcare, shared the details of that strategy in an epidemic case study presented at the 2015 National HIPAA Summit in Washington, D.C.
It all started for her with a phone call just 72 hours before Dr. Kent Brantly, a physician with the Christian relief organization Samaritan's Purse, arrived at the hospital by air ambulance from Liberia on August 2, 2014. Brantly was in Liberia treating Ebola patients at a hospital before he contracted the virus himself.

Continue reading
“Protecting patient privacy during an epidemic” on the HCPro website. Subscribers to Briefings on HIPAA have free access to this article in the July issue.

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