Visitor Question

Home health aide posted my mother’s private health information online…

Submitted By: Susan (Hartford, CT)

A Home Health Aide (HHA) hired to care for my dying mother did not agree with our family decision to admit her to a hospice. She lived in Colorado at the time.

As retribution, the aide posted a review of our family business online, disclosing my mother’s medical condition, medications, and her doctor’s name. She claimed that hospice is similar to putting your dog down. She posted this as a review of our family business. It now shows up whenever anyone Google’s our company name.

How can we get a court order for Google to remove the search link? The family company is under my father’s name. Also, can anything be done legally to the home health aide who violated HIPAA law and posted my mother’s personal health information online? This is a clear breach of privacy. Thank you.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear Susan,

According to the Administrative Simplification Standards adopted by Health and Human Services (HHS), only “covered entities” (also known as “covered health providers”) are subject to HIPAA laws and regulations protecting the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of electronic protected health information.

The following are considered covered entities:

1.

A health care provider which conducts certain transactions in electronic form

2.

A health care clearinghouse

3.

A health plan

It is unlikely your mother’s health care aid is a covered health care provider subject to Administrative Simplification. Moreover, it appears the health care aid, and not her employer, published the medical information.

Unless the aid posted defamatory comments which might make her and her employer liable, you really don’t have a viable defamation claim. Your only recourse appears to be filing a HIPAA complaint against the aide, and perhaps the company she works for. Read more about filing a HIPAA complaint here.

Google has its own rules governing what information may be available under their search engine. To remove your mother’s medical information, you will have to contact Google and request it be removed. However, they are likely under no legal obligation to do so. Learn more about Google’s removal policies here.

You may be better off making a direct request to the site hosting the content (i.e. the business review) to remove it.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Published: August 16, 2014

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