HIPAA Violation To Give Medical Samples to Family?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about samples: Is this a HIPPA violation?

I worked in a busy ob/gyn office. One of our doctors often would tell patients to stop in and pick up samples, we have several in our office for different things…Anyway, a patient came in one day that hadn’t been there in years. There was nothing left for the patient. I went to ask the nurse for help and found out it was her sister! The patient never said her sister worked there…etc. Is this a HIPPA violation?

Signed, Concerned

Dear Concerned:

We’re not especially knowledgeable about all of the aspects of the Health Insurance Portablity and Accountability Act. But, based on quick research, there appears to be nothing in violation of that act, in the scenario you mentioned. There may have been a violation of some of the requirements of your office, according to what was given to the patient, but even that may not be significant. It sounds as though a nurse in the office gave a sample to her sister, who was–at least at some point–a patient.

Unless the nature of the sample could put the medical office in a bad situation for some reason, the doctors probably would not care, and may have known about it already. You say that you “worked” in the office, implying that you don’t now. The situation as you describe it sounds minor, not in violation of the law and over and done with. It would have to be a very,very severe situation for there to be a reason to investigate it now. Best wishes to you with your work.

Tina Lewis Rowe