Saturday, November 1, 2008

Who Can You Trust? Hospital Fires Employees For Breach

American Federation of State, County and Munic...Image via Wikipedia

Trust A Critical Factor

For a human resources professional, breaching someones confidentiality is one of the worst ethical violations you could commit. Of all the things that we in HR need to do to be creditable, that may be one of the most important. Here is my list of six critical factors to be an effective HR professional:
  1. Be open
  2. Be Responsive
  3. Be trustworthy
  4. Be knowledgeable
  5. Be timely
  6. Be effective
Other professions have their own factors, but trust is one that touches almost every profession. A large part of trust is knowing that private information will be kept confidential. The legal and medical professions are held to the highest standards in this area.

But sometimes, this standard fails. Take the case of Richard Collier, professional football player with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

A Jacksonville, Florida television reports the following story on their web site:

20 Hospital Workers Fired for Viewing Collier's Medical Record

Twenty hospital workers -- nurses, admissions workers and patient relations staff -- lost their jobs this week, accused of breaking federal privacy rules by accessing the medical records of the Jaguars' Richard Collier.Two weeks after Collier -- who was shot 14 times -- was well enough to be discharged from Shands-Jacksonville Medical Center, 20 hospital employees were fired for violating Collier's medical privacy.

Collier was rushed to Shands Sept. 2 after a gunman walked up to Collier's SUV as he waited outside a Riverside apartment and opened fire.

After two surgeries and weeks in the trauma center, the player who was contending for the starting offensive tackle position with the team when the season opened left the hospital paralyzed from the waist down and lost one of his legs.Collier is now in rehab and said to have a positive attitude.

Channel 4 learned this week that 20 Shands employees accused of compromising Collier's medical records were recently fired for violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, commonly called HIPPA.

HIPPA's rules are designed to protect patients medical records.

A union representative for the employees confirmed that the workers -- admissions personnel, nurses and patient relations staff -- were accused of looking at Collier's medical file in the computer system.

A spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents Shands employees, said the hospital performed an audit on who accessed Collier's computer file.

Doug Martin, of AFSCME, said Shands went overboard, firing people who had legitimate reasons to access Collier's records and those who accessed the file accidentally.Martin told Channel 4's Adam Landau that firing 20 people over something like this is just not done.

"This discipline is completely out of proportion to the offense," Martin said. "It's also treating them differently than others have been treated in the past."

Shands would not answer questions about its disciplinary actions, but issued this statement Friday afternoon:
"Any allegation of a breach in patient confidentiality is taken very seriously. All allegations are investigated thoroughly. If it has been determined that a violation has occurred, disciplinary action up to and including termination can be used. In order to maintain patient confidentiality we do not comment on any specific cases."
While Collier was hospitalized, his family asked both the media and even the Jaguars to respect his privacy while he was hospitalized. There was also no indication that any of the information staff is accused of accessing was leaked to the public.

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