I received someone else's confidential medical test results in the mail...

by Ed
(Philadelphia, PA, USA)

I took a coronary calcium scan test based on the recommendation of my primary care physician. He referred me to a cardiologist at a hospital in my area. I then received in the mail, the results of the test for someone else.

The person's name is clearly indicated on the test result, while the envelope received from the hospital where my test was performed is clearly addressed to me.

Is this a HIPAA violation? Do I report it? What should I do? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "I received someone else's confidential medical test results in the mail...":

Ed (Philadelphia, PA, USA):

The entity with whom the test results were documented and ultimately mailed was likely a "covered entity" under HIPAA. If so, the unauthorized dissemination of another patients's confidential medical information was technically a HIPAA violation.

You can certainly contact the entity which mailed you the test results and make clear to them you were not the patient listed on the test results. But the only person who has a right to claim a violation was the other patient.

If the patient's name and contact information is listed on the test results, you can contact the patient and explain you wrongly received his or her test results. Then it would be up to the patient to contact the health care provider directly, or contact the US Dept. of Health and Human Services to report a violation.

You are an innocent patient and have committed no wrongdoing by reading the results of the other patient's tests. As a result, you have no legal exposure.

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

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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