Thread: HIPAA Question

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    Question HIPAA Question

    Here is the scenario...
    I am an EMT. I live outside my fire district. The other evening there was a roll over in front of my home. I raced out, began treatment of the patient until the ambulance arrived, who then transported. After the PT had left the scene, I took a photo of the car, (broad side), and posted it to Facebook. The Pres. of ambulance corps who i know, asked if I would take the photo off of Facebook due to HIPAA. I immediately did so, no questons. Note, I am not currently a member of the Ambulance who responded and the incident was outside my fire district.

    It was my understanding, that any photo of a PT or vehicle license plate, DOES violate HIPAA. Does the photo I took, of just the car from the road, (no identification shown) also violate this rule?

    I want to understand my limitations so that I do not make this mistake in the future, if in fact it was a mistake in the first place.

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    While it might not have been a Hippa Violation it might have been a department SOP violation, which would be reason enough to take it down. Or they where simply looking to nip a possible problem in the bud, Facebook is premier breeding grounds for lies, and false prophets, do your self a favor and never show any official department colors, photos, or anything that would show you in a emergency service role on that site.
    Courage, Being Scared to Death and Saddling Up anyways.

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    Great feedback BW. I think that is a safe approach and creed to follow in the future. There were no other objects other than the car in the photo.

    Thanks!

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    Here is a little reading on the topic:
    http://davidkonig.com/2009/on-hipaa-and-photography/

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    My understanding is if your agency does not bill for services, HIPPA does not apply to you.
    But never a good idea to put up pics like that on the internet.
    Check your SOP's.

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    How does it work if I was not a member of either organization?

    (devils advocate here)

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    Quote Originally Posted by DropTank View Post
    How does it work if I was not a member of either organization?

    (devils advocate here)
    Then you're just a member of the public, taking a picture of something that can be seen from a public thoroughfare.

    HIPAA is one of the most misunderstood laws that ever existed. Nowhere does it address license plates and accident scenes.
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    You may take a photo of anything, anywhere, anytime, anyplace (including patients faces, license plates, etc)...IF.....

    -You take the photo from a public thoroughfare such as a sidewalk, street, public park, etc.

    -You take the photo from your own property

    -You take the photo on private property but with the property owner's permission

    -You are NOT a member of a responding agency that has rules and regulations regarding photography.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DropTank View Post
    It was my understanding, that any photo of a PT or vehicle license plate, DOES violate HIPAA. Does the photo I took, of just the car from the road, (no identification shown) also violate this rule?
    There's no HIPAA violation and the ambulance company's SOPs don't apply to you since you don't work for them. It's entirely up to you to post it or not.

    (Personally, I might obscure the license plate if I posted it although it really doesn't make all that much difference.)
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    I think it's been pretty well covered, but I'll reiterate anyway.

    If this happened outside your department's jurisdiction and you weren't working for the responding ambulance, you are nothing more than a trained good samaritan.

    HIPAA, as has been mentioned, has nothing to do with vehicles or license plates. What it has to do with is health insurance (the HI in HIPAA). If the ambulance president was worried about anything, it should be patient confidentiality. However, the pictures you took and posted didn't have the patient in it or anything to identify who the patient was, so that shouldn't be an issue.

    Sounds like the ambulance president could use some HIPAA education, and perhaps some education on dealing with the public (which you were at the time).

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    Quote Originally Posted by FWDbuff View Post
    You may take a photo of anything, anywhere, anytime, anyplace (including patients faces, license plates, etc)...IF.....

    -You take the photo from a public thoroughfare such as a sidewalk, street, public park, etc.

    -You take the photo from your own property

    -You take the photo on private property but with the property owner's permission

    -You are NOT a member of a responding agency that has rules and regulations regarding photography.
    THIS.

    The person who contacted you is full of dookie, and overstepped their bounds.
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    Crap, tell the idiot that it is obvious that he can't even spell HIPAA.

    Question... why blur the license plate? I see it all the time, but most people don't have access to any system that can look it up, so why bother?
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

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    Not HIPAA violation. Not even close. One must be able to somehow identify a patient in order to violate HIPAA... still, do what your supervisor asks...
    Firefighting - one of the few professions left that still makes house calls.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChiefKN View Post
    Crap, tell the idiot that it is obvious that he can't even spell HIPAA.

    Question... why blur the license plate? I see it all the time, but most people don't have access to any system that can look it up, so why bother?
    I beleive there are those few who can look it up, and giving them even the slightest opportunity to identify a patients identity is a no-no...
    Firefighting - one of the few professions left that still makes house calls.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NFD-Firefighter View Post
    I beleive there are those few who can look it up, and giving them even the slightest opportunity to identify a patients identity is a no-no...
    Who besides law enforcement?? And that just identifies the owner of the car, not any victim.

    Not to mention, that in most states, I think that the LEO would get in trouble for running a plate without a legit reason.
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

    "The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Catch22 View Post
    HIPAA, as has been mentioned, has nothing to do with vehicles or license plates. What it has to do with is health insurance (the HI in HIPAA). If the ambulance president was worried about anything, it should be patient confidentiality. However, the pictures you took and posted didn't have the patient in it or anything to identify who the patient was, so that shouldn't be an issue.
    The HIPAA Privacy Rule regulates any release of patient information from a covered entity, not just insurance. I say "any" because one of the permitted uses (a valid use that does not require the patient's permission) is "treatment, payment, and health care operations." So, yes, it is not a violation to receive or give report to others involved with the patient's care. It is not a violation to discuss a call with someone at your agency for QA purposes. It is not a violation for billing to read a patient's chart.

    Additionally, the key word in the above is "covered entity." For health care providers, a covered entity is a service that transmits covered transactions (bills) electronically. So if you either don't bill, or don't bill electronically, then you are not a covered entity under HIPAA. However a few notes. First, billing electronically is not the same as paper vs ePCR. Just because you use paper does not mean that your billing service does not bill electronically. Second, if you bill Medicare, you bill electronically. Third, whether you are a covered entity or not is irrelevant when it comes to state medical privacy laws. HIPAA is not the only health care privacy law out there.

    Finally, I find it hard to believe that there is a privacy law dealing with some dude video taping anything that is occurring out in public, and if you're off duty with a camera, all you are is 'some dude.'


    Helpful flowchart for 'covered entity' status from the Center for Medicare/MediCade Services (HMS):
    http://www.cms.gov/HIPAAGenInfo/Down...titycharts.pdf

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    Just a thought : If this happened in a small town , it's not impossible that a photo might identify the owner of the vehicle.
    No violation of HIPAA or not truly privacy issues as you were not a responder.
    Facebook is where lawyers go to get info used in lawsuits,because they can find photos from witnesses taken on their cell phones . You could be supoened to testify in a court proceeding based on your photos.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChiefKN View Post
    Who besides law enforcement?? And that just identifies the owner of the car, not any victim.

    Not to mention, that in most states, I think that the LEO would get in trouble for running a plate without a legit reason.
    There are plenty of websites out there... just do a google search
    Firefighting - one of the few professions left that still makes house calls.

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    Great feedback! My application has been submitted to the Ambulance Corps, but I am not a member at the moment. SO, not to p*ss anyone off, I will happily comply. I do know it is their dept. SOP not to post when on duty. Again, just a trained bi-standard.

    Thanks everyone!

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