Visitor Question

Is it a violation to discuss private medical info in semi-private room?

Submitted By: Muriel (Akron, OH)

A recent hospitalization involved me being placed in a room along with another patient. I requested a private room, as I didn’t want any of my private medical details discussed in front of other patients. I was refused.

I even asked how they can be compliant with HIPAA laws in these situations, and was just told, “sorry, these are the only rooms we have.” Have HIPAA laws been violated in this case? Other people for whom I have not given consent can clearly hear my private medical information. Thanks for any info you can give.

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 Muriel,

On a very technical level, it could be argued a HIPAA violation occurs each time a third party overhears your medical information. On a more realistic level, the answer is “No.” HIPAA laws are not violated when another patient or a patient’s family overhears a doctor or other medical professional speaking with you about your medical status.

To be in violation of HIPAA, there must be an unauthorized “electronic dissemination” of a patient’s private medical information to an unauthorized third party. In your case, there doesn’t appear to be any direct dissemination of your medical information to one or more third parties.

Instead, the hospital is acting reasonably and has no intention or motive to unlawfully provide your private medical information to anyone but you.

You can certainly ask the medical professionals to draw the curtains around your bed, or speak in a softer tone. There is no way a court would ever hold a HIPAA violation occurred when a medical professional is speaking directly to you, and not to any third parties.

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: November 13, 2014

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