When real life crashes into your work life

Privacy in healthcare PHI

Last week my dad had pretty serious foot surgery. He’ll likely end up with a bit of swagger, but more Tinman than P-Diddy. He was operated on in one of the largest hospital systems in the country, an organization that previously set records for their care, automation, and patient engagement.

Maybe it’s my own personal status as a hospital “frequent flyer” or the fact that I work for Litmos Healthcare and know more about the rules and regulations than the average patient. Either way, I was horrified.

Post-op, my dad was brought into his room, but before anyone got settled in, they rolled in his roommate (can’t believe they still do this).

This poor kid had just endured his fourth surgery in a year on his right arm, which had been crushed in a motor cross accident at the Washougal track. His first surgery was at Legacy. I know his name and his birthday is in 1992, I won’t tell you the month or day because that would be a HIPAA violation. Again.

The nurse pulled up his chart on her computer, then moved the rolling station so she could check his vitals. Guess where she wheeled that computer with the open chart? Next to where I was sitting!

You can see the number of issues here, but this story gets better.

Due to the extent of this kid’s injuries and the number of surgeries he had, he had a fairly large drainage receptacle under his bandages. Without pulling the “privacy” curtain, and in my full view, the nurse went to strip his drain, a common practice. Unfortunately, the tubing leaked, spilling a large amount of blood on the nurse, WHO WAS NOT WEARING GLOVES! I kid you not.

I wanted to scream. I am pretty sure the nurse was screaming in his head.

So let’s back-track, why are patients sharing rooms? They’re sharing germs and private information. My family doesn’t want to be privy to this kid’s information and we shouldn’t be. Pretty sure my dad didn’t want to smell the fast food his mom brought in, which he barfed up later. This surgery was traumatic enough for my dad and for all of us, but it was impossible to deal with any of this stuff privately.

As an industry, we know that Patient Health Information is a valuable commodity for criminals, why would you ever leave it unsecured? How would anyone know I wasn’t a diabolical anti-hero? This is how a breach happens, yet we are in such a rush to multi-task that we don’t put our training to use.

Trust me; I know the cost of providing care is astronomical. Finding good nurses is even more challenging in our current environment. But are we so strapped that we lose sight of the basics? When you have been sliced and diced, can’t get to the bathroom on your own, please let us heal in private. I rock the hospital gown, but no one needs to see that!

Every patient should be given respect and that starts with privacy.

This same privacy protects their PHI, their valuables and their dignity. Is saving money worth losing sight of that?

My hospital of choice is Peace Health Southwest Washington; let me tell you how they set the bar so high. They have this crazy hand washing protocol that I really appreciate. After seven surgeries, I have never had a roommate. Each room has a couple different privacy curtains and the one in front of the door is always closed. The computer with my chart information is outside my room so that regardless of who is visiting me, they can never see what little love notes have been typed up. Sure they could leave that unlocked, but I’d bet my health that never happens. There are multiple barcodes that are scanned to make sure I am me, without having to yell out my birthday or social security number. They won’t even talk about my issues when someone is in my room without my verbal permission. Kudos Peace Health!

Do I even need to say anything about the gloves?

Oh and the Tinman is on the mend.

Give the gift of HIPAA and OSHA Training this holiday season!