In the course of our work at Guardian Nurses, we often (ok, every day) have to deal with the federal healthcare privacy law called HIPAA.  Since we are working on behalf of patients, we need to get their written authorization that we can speak with their clinical providers and request records from facilities.  Patients easily sign our HIPAA form because they trust us, they are hiring us and they WANT us to break through the bureaucracy and get the information we need to help them.

It's not our team I'm worried about!  It's the other guys!

Just this week, we had two cases of hospital staff not wanting to speak with us DESPITE a signed HIPAA form being on the patient's chart.  When asked "why not?," the nurse responded, "I have to check with my manager."   Check with your manager about what? 

In the other case, our patient/client was talking with his nurse advocate on the  phone when the nurse assigned to him came into the room.  Since we had wanted to talk with her, our patient thought he'd just hand the phone over to his nurse and we could talk with her.  He said, "I'd like you to speak to my nurse advocate, Debbie, and answer some of her questions."  The staff nurse accepted the phone and proceeded to tell Debbie, "I'm sorry, I can't speak with you. I don't have the patient's consent."  Um….have you ever heard of verbal consent?

I understand the need to maintain patient's privacy when it comes to healthcare information.  But using HIPAA as a tool to NOT communicate with a patient's family or advocate is not the intent of the law.  If a patient consents, whether it be a signed consent form or a verbal consent for a phone conversation, it's consent. 

The #1 problem in healthcare today is communication.  Don't use HIPAA to make it worse!