Photo by AnnaKika, via Flickr

Photo by AnnaKika, via Flickr

RealityRN, a site popular with nursing students and new nurses, has a couple of interesting posts lately:

Here’s an anonymous post from a new nurse graduate looking for advice about how to handle sexual harassment by a doctor. How would you advise her?

And this post is a cautionary tale for all clinicians who’ve ever been tempted by curiosity about a patient: it describes just how easy it is for hospital information systems to detect when someone has violated HIPAA (short for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) privacy laws by accessing a patient’s record when they shouldn’t. While we all know how much confusion and resentment the more arbitrary and punitive aspects of HIPAA caused after its implementation in 2003, this month’s AJN describes clinicians’ growing acceptance of the law’s benefits, an acceptance resulting from growing familiarity with the law and from continued efforts to smooth out some of the law’s rougher edges.

[The] early focus on HIPAA’s punitive aspects led health care organizations to adopt strict privacy procedures and policies that left little room for clinical staff to exercise professional judgment in communicating patients’ health information. Now, most have relaxed this approach in response to feedback from clinical staff and consumers, as well as a friendlier informational Web site from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), whose Office for Civil Rights oversees compliance.

Is HIPAA getting easier for you?

Jacob Molyneux, senior editor
Bookmark and Share