Protecting the privacy of patient information is an important responsibility facing not only UTMB, but all health care organizations. As an academic medical center, UTMB is privileged to provide patient care, educate tomorrow’s health care work force, and engage in cutting edge biomedical research. With this privilege also comes the responsibility to understand and address privacy issues that impact those that we serve.
Everyone at UTMB has a role in this, whether it’s because you are part of the health care delivery team, or you just happen to run into a neighbor in the hall while he/she is here for an appointment. We cannot access or talk about a patient’s care unless we need to do so for our job.
UTMB depends upon you to do your part to protect patient confidentiality.
How can you help? That‘s easy. Here are some important things to remember:
- Access patient information only as needed to do your job and not for any other reason.
- Do not access information of co-workers, friends or family members unless it is part of your job responsibility. This applies even if you’re involved in a family member’s care. UTMB has a great new tool called MyChart that is a secure, electronic way for patients to access their health information and communicate with their UTMB health care team. Patients can also allow family access to accounts through MyChart Proxy access.
- Avoid sharing information with others unless they need to know the information in order to perform their work.
- Keep your passwords secret. UTMB personnel are responsible for all information that is accessed under their user name and password and are held accountable for any information that is accessed inappropriately.
- When you leave your workstation, log out of the medical record so that others do not use your access for inappropriate purposes.
- Properly dispose of patient information to prevent anyone who doesn’t have a need to know from seeing it. When a recycling bag is full, zip it closed and place an appropriate lock on it. Leave the bags in a secure location until they are picked up by housekeeping staff.
- Report violations of UTMB privacy policies by contacting the OIC directly at 409-747-8700 or by calling the UTMB Fraud, Abuse and Privacy hotline at 1 (800) 898-7679.
Below are some examples of what NOT TO DO:
- Do not use a UTMB system to look up the phone number and address of a patient for personal reasons.
- Do not look up a patient’s information just to see how they are doing.
- Do not look up a friend’s lab results because the friend wants the results in a more timely fashion.
- Do not look up a family member’s information to find out when their next appointment time.
- Do not access the UTMB bed census to find out where a friend, family member or co-worker is being treated.
- Do not talk to others about the treatment a person in the community has received.
- Do not tell another employee, who is not involved in the treatment activities of the patient, the patient’s personal medical condition.
- Do not tell family members about a patient’s information that you learned about at work, even if it’s about another family member.
- Do not Send an unencrypted email or text message with patient information, even it is for a legitimate business need.
- Do not disclose identifying information on a patient and talk about the medical condition of the patient in the dining hall with friends at lunch.
- Do not disclose information to a visitor on a “no information” patient.
What would you do?
Q My neighbor asked me to use the computer system to look up some lab data about her daughter-in-law. May I give this data to my neighbor?
A No. The daughter-in-law should receive this information from her physician. All medical information is strictly confidential. You should never provide any health information to anyone. Communicating confidential patient information inappropriately, carelessly, or negligently (e.g., casual discussion regarding a patient, discussion in public areas, and/or unauthorized release of information while on or off campus) is a breach of confidentiality.
Q While typing a note for my physician supervisor, I noticed that my neighbor is scheduled for simple surgery. I mentioned this to my husband, and he said something to my neighbor. Now my neighbor is angry with me. Have I done anything wrong?
A Yes. You must not reveal any medical information about any individual to any other person.
Q I notice that a friend is on the schedule to have a medical procedure. I would like to express my concern about her problem. May I tell her I hope the procedure goes well?
A No. Even though you want to be kind to your friend, you would be even kinder by respecting her privacy and not mentioning anything about her medical condition.
Q I saw my ex-husband’s wife in the hallway at UTMB. I believe she is being treated here. Can I look up her medical record to determine why she is here?
A No. This is strictly forbidden. All medical information is private and must be held in the strictest confidence.
Q I’m having trouble getting in touch with a patient about an upcoming procedure. I know that she has a Facebook page because we’re friends. Can I send her a message through Facebook to let her know when the procedure is scheduled?
A No. You should continue to contact her through the same methods you would any other patient or, if she has a MyChart account you could send her a secure message through MyChart.