You can't make this stuff up, and I just have to share this. One of our staff members was the victim of an assault off-campus, totally unrelated to her work. The assailant was not known to the staff member, and law enforcement was not able to make an arrest. Recently, the assailant sought care at a location where the victim works, and they recognized each other. The assailant warned the victim that HIPAA prevents her from notifying law enforcement of his identity!
My plan of action, and please comment if you have any additional or contrary thoughts, is to have the victim contact the investigator assigned to her case and advise that she now knows the identity of her assailant, but the assailant has warned her that federal law prevents her from disclosing the assailant's name. I have instructed that she should ask the investigator to contact me, as Privacy Officer, to obtain the assailant's name, etc.
I will disclose the assailant/patient's PHI per 45 CFR 164.512(f)(2) which permits disclosure of PHI in response to a law enforcement request to identify or locate a suspect, fugitive or material witness, or per 512(f)(5) that permits disclosure of PHI related to a crime on premises. Although I don't purport to know criminal law, I believe that the assailant/patient attempted to alter evidence or intimidate a witness when he warned her that HIPAA prevents her from disclosing his identity.
I do not agree with the assailant's interpretation that HIPAA prevents the victim from disclosing to law enforcement, because I assume that, once the victim informs the investigator that she knows the assailant's identity, the investigator will ask for the name/address, DOB, etc. I think that 512(f)(2)allows the victim to respond to the question from law enforcement. I am recommending the above course of action to assure the victim that she is not violating HIPAA.
Scot J. Houska
Chief Compliance Officer / Privacy Officer
Direct (970) 644-3030 • Mobile (970) 261-3573
ANONYMOUS COMPLIANCE HOTLINE (877) 437-7448
2351 G Road
Grand Junction, CO 81505
Strangers stopping strangers, just to shake their hand – J Garcia/R. Hunter
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