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Am I in violation of HIPPA laws because I copied and removed a medication log from my facility?

Wednesday December 12, 2012
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Question:

Dear Nancy,

My supervisor falsified a blood glucose log after the fact. I, by chance, had made a copy of this log, before the falsification, so I could bring to her attention that the blood sugars were not being charted or completed. I became frightened of retaliation, so I removed all patient identifiers and brought it home until I decided what to do. If I step forward with the copied medication administration record, will I be violating HIPPA regulations because I copied it and removed it from the facility?

John



Nancy Brent replies:

Dear John,

Some general comments can be made about your submitted question. You have indicated that you copied the blood glucose log, removed all patient identifiers and took the copied log home. Because it sounds as though there were no "patient identifiers" on the log, it would seem no HIPAA violation occurred.

However, it is probably the case that your employer has a policy that no patient records are to be copied or taken out of the facility. When this occurs, there is probably some discipline imposed, including, but not limited to, termination, suspension or a written warning including that any further violations of hospital policy will result in termination.

Your best choice in this situation is to consult with a nurse attorney or attorney in your state who works with employees. Although it is not certain there will be direct retaliation from your supervisor, some retaliation is probably realistic. Your consultation can help you to move quickly to avert, or at least defend, against that action. The other ethical and legal issue you need to consider, with your attorney's guidance, is what to do with the fact that the supervisor is falsifying patient records. Your attorney can lay out your options in this situation and then you can decide on how to proceed.

Sincerely,
Nancy




Nancy J. Brent, RN, MS, JD, is an attorney in private practice in Wilmette, Ill. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal or any other advice. The reader is encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney or other professional when an opinion is needed.