Articles Posted in Patient Privacy

bruinlogo-300x225USC, Ohio State, Michigan State, and now, UCLA: How can big universities, with all the supposedly smart folks who head them, be so blind and deaf to student complaints that school personnel may be sexually abusing them? And why do academics keep getting caught up in situations where they appear to or may be covering up wrongdoing against the young?

Officials at the University of California Los Angeles find themselves apologizing profusely for failing to disclose that they knew of accusations of inappropriate conduct by a gynecologist on the school’s staff while treating patients in university facilities, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Women say that Dr. James Mason Heaps wrongly touched their private parts, and UCLA learned of the accusations in 2017, putting the longtime staff gynecologist on leave in 2018. The school, however, did not disclose why Heaps was gone — until criminal charges were filed against him in recent days and he pleaded not guilty to them in court.

teenstress-300x168Recent news reports underscore how the nation’s youth are struggling more than had been believed with stress, anxiety, and depression.

The New York Times, based on nationwide polling by the respected Pew Research Center, reported that 70 percent of teenagers surveyed cited mental health concerns as a top issue for them. It ranked ahead of bullying, drugs, gangs, alcohol, and teen pregnancy.

As the newspaper reported, dealing with stress, anxiety, and depression hits teens hard these days, for a lot of good reasons:

bathrobe-300x188Already-admitted patients shouldn’t be flummoxed if they’re moved into a bigger, quieter, and nicer room. There, a fluffy complimentary robe may await them. They may receive a warm welcome from well-attired executives — those senior enough so their pictures may even hang in pictures on the hall walls. And, yes, make no mistake, their nurses and doctors really will be kind and attentive.

Welcome to high-roller care as it’s delivered now to a select few by staff in at least three score big hospitals and academic medical centers nationwide, including Johns Hopkins and MedStar Health in Columbia, Md.

You won’t necessarily seek out or request this special attention. It turns out that hospitals will know you’re posh enough to merit it because loopholes in privacy laws allow them, using special software, to run regular searches through patient rosters to determine which guests also might be potential and lucrative donors, reported the independent, nonprofit Kaiser Health News service in a story that appeared in the New York Times. You also may allow the pitches because, likely unbeknownst to you, you signed a form giving your permission for it in that mountain of admission paperwork.

barbaraunderwood-300x300

NY Atty Gen Barbara Underwood

Profit-hungry hospitals have dived to some real lows in billing and mistreating patients. Seven New York facilities have gotten slapped down by the state attorney general for breaking the law by charging more than 200 women anywhere from $46 to $2,892 for collecting evidence that the patients may have been raped.

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood, whose office conducted a year-long investigation of the abuses of state laws aimed at protecting victims of sexual violence, said in a statement, quoted by the New York Times: “Survivors of sexual assault have already gone through unfathomable trauma. To then subject them to illegal bills and collection calls is unconscionable.”

deskstanding-231x300Holiday gift-giving can be expensive, so the health-conscious may wish to exercise skepticism about some potential purchases with dubious or unexpected consequence.

If you’re considering forking over more than a few dollars, think twice about:

  • So-called “tall” or “standing” desks. They were supposed to be a response to growing research about workers’ heightened health risks from sitting all day long. But studies show that standing while working with a computer isn’t as beneficial as some advocates may have claimed. That’s because it isn’t exercise or movement — which was supposed to the point of promoting healthier workplace practices, such as getting up from the desk and walking around every few minutes rather than becoming sedentary on the job. Studies, in fact, show that workers who must stand all day suffer health harms, like varicose veins and more. Some employees with posture issues may benefit some from standing and not scrunching themselves up while sitting at a desk. For most of the rest of us, it does matter to get up, exercise, and move. A fancy desk isn’t necessary for that, right?

docnrecordsUncle Sam more than ever wants it to happen, and patient advocates are pushing hard, too. So, why, when technology can make it easier than ever to do so, must patients struggle still to get easy, convenient, low- or no-cost access to invaluable electronic records about their own health care?

Judith Graham, a columnist focusing on aging issues for the Kaiser Health News Service, has written a timely, troubling update on perplexing challenges consumers still confront when trying to secure their electronic health records (EHRs).

She cites a study recently published by Yale researchers who gathered information from 83 leading hospitals that purport to assist their patients with EHR access. The experts swept up policies and forms the institutions said patients would need, then contacted them, telling hospital staffers not that they were academic researchers but that they were checking on behalf of an elderly relative in need of their records and how soon and how difficult and costly might it be to get them? This is an everyday dilemma for consumers, and the institutions should have dealt with these requests with ease and alacrity.

deduct-300x190As various news organizations reported, anxious Americans will vote in less than a month with health care as a dominating concern. A new annual report shows why: Medical costs keep rising, as does the cost of health insurance, notably the coverage most of us get from our employers. Companies keep pushing on to workers higher premiums and deductibles that race ahead of inflation and devour wage growth.

Deductibles — the out-of-pocket costs that patients must pay before their coverage kicks in and benefits them — have skyrocketed since 2008, growing by 212 percent. That’s eight times faster than wage growth, and 12 times faster than inflation, according to the latest research by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The average deductible, $303 a decade ago, now has hit $1,573 for single coverage.

abcshow-300x188Big hospitals can’t exploit patients and violate their privacy by throwing open their facilities to Hollywood for television shows that plump institutions’ reputations. And academic medical centers need to think twice before letting their leaders strike cozy deals to enrich a choice few insiders by hawking important diagnostic information collected with best intentions by medical staff from patients for decades.

The roster of hospitals dealing with black-eyes from recent negative news stories about their activities includes well-regarded institutions in Boston and New York —  Boston Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Federal regulators busted the Boston hospitals with fines settled for just under $1 million for “inviting film crews on premises to film an ABC television network documentary series, without first obtaining authorization from patients,” reported the U.S. Health and Human Services’ department’s Office of Civil Rights.

kprobes-300x167An innovation in medical treatment — which was supposed to offer more affordable, accessible, and even convenient care — instead may be getting swamped with safety problems that long have plagued hospitals and academic medical centers.

USA Today and Kaiser Health News Service deserve credit for digging into patients’ nightmares with specialized surgical centers, not only those performing “routine” procedures but also those handling increasingly longer, more complex, and difficult operations. The many surgeries, once the province only of big and well-staffed hospitals, put patients at risk, the newspaper reported, saying:

[Our] investigation found that surgery centers operate under such an uneven mix of rules across U.S. states that fatalities or serious injuries can result in no warning to government officials, much less to potential patients. The gaps in oversight enable centers hit with federal regulators’ toughest sanctions to keep operating, according to interviews, a review of hundreds of pages of court filings and government records obtained under open records laws. No rule stops a doctor exiled by a hospital for misconduct from opening a surgery center down the street.

krumholzIn many parts of the developing world, families play a big part in patients’ hospital care. They not only sit for long hours with loved ones, supporting and encouraging their recovery. They also may help with direct services, bathing and cleaning patients, tending to their beds and quarters, and even assisting with their medications and treatments.

Such attentiveness from loved ones— once common in this country, too —  may be deemed by many now as quaint and unnecessary, what with the rise of big, shiny, expensive American hospitals.

But think again: As Paula Span reported in her New York Times column on “The New Old Age,” care-giving institutions across the country have become such stressful, disruptive places that seniors, especially, not only heal poorly in them but also may be launched into a downward cycle of repeat admissions.

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