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Patient information and HIPAA.

 

patientinfoPatient information and what information is available through HIPAA.
Melissa Melewsky. media lawyer for the PA NewsMedia Assoc., provided the following information.
Q: I asked a hospital treating a man involved in a serious car accident about his status. The hospital refused and said HIPAA prevents the release of all patient information. Does HIPAA prevent hospitals from releasing any and all information about patients?
A: No, while HIPAA prohibits unauthorized release of individually identifiable health records, it permits the release of “directory information” about patients identified by name in certain circumstances.
Directory information includes: patient name; location in the facility; health condition expressed in general terms that does not communicate specific medical information about the individual; and religious affiliation (available to clergy only).
HIPAA does not define what constitutes a health condition, but in general, hospitals typically use one of five terms to describe patients’ health conditions. They are: undetermined, good, fair, serious, and critical. Hospitals can also tell requesters that a patient was treated and released or if the patient is deceased, but hospitals typically do not do so before next of kin has been notified.
Patients can choose to opt out of the hospital directory, and in those cases, the hospital can not release directory information.

 

Last Updated on Friday, 15 January 2016 09:52

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Lower Swatara approves plowing agreement

Crews from Lower Swatara Twp. will plow state roads in the township again next winter under an agreement with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation that was approved unanimously by township commissioners on Wednesday, July 15.

Lower Swatara will get about $300 more in 2015-16 from PennDOT for snow plowing. In a particularly bad winter, the department may provide additional money for the township’s services, although no money is returned to the state following a mild season treating the roads.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 August 2015 16:55

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Naming terminated public employees: public information or not?

 

The following is provided thanks to the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association:

Question: A local agency recently terminated several employees at a public meeting without disclosing their names. The board voted to terminate using employee numbers only and cited concerns about employee privacy to support its position. Isn’t the agency required to release the names of the employees being terminated?

Answer: Yes. The public comment provision and minutes-keeping requirements of the Sunshine Act require disclosure and recording of the names, and the Right to Know Law makes the employees’ name, salary, length of service and the agency’s final action regarding employee termination a public record.

Section 710.1 of the Sunshine Act requires a reasonable opportunity for meaningful public comment at each public meeting and prior to all official action. Without the names of employees being terminated, the public has no opportunity to give meaningful comment prior to the vote, and the plain terms of the Sunshine Act’s public comment provision are ignored. Furthermore, section 706 of the Sunshine Act requires meeting minutes to contain the substance of all official action. If the meeting minutes do not contain the names of the employees and the termination action taken by the board, they do not provide an accurate record of the meeting, raising Sunshine Act compliance issues.

Further, section 708(b)(6)(ii) of the Right to Know Law makes certain employee information public record, including name, salary, and length of service. These records would include the employees’ names, as well as beginning and termination dates. Moreover, section 708(b)(7)(viii) expressly makes the agency’s final action on employee discharge and demotion a public record. 

 

 

Last Updated on Saturday, 14 March 2015 12:56

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