A Veteran Affairs hospital employee has been banned from accessing patient records after allegedly tweeting about an elderly patient’s penis implant surgery.
In a since-deleted tweet from Monday, the employee said: A ‘72[-year-old] male gets government-funded surgery’ along with an eggplant emoji.
To accompany the tweet, the account posted a photo of the man’s medical record. While there was no sign of the veteran’s name, there appeared to be handwritten medical details on the note that shared a person’s heart rate, blood pressure, temperature and mental status.
She has since denied that the medical record belonged to the VA patient, and claimed it was something she had found on the internet. However, according to The Washington Post, Veterans Affairs press secretary Terrence Hayes confirmed the record posted to Twitter was “for a veteran who had surgery last week.”
“VA is aware of the incident and takes it very [seriously],” Hayes said. “An investigation is underway and the employee has been removed from all access to Veteran medical records for the foreseeable future.”
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The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects private health information from being shared outside the organisation without authorisation. A pamphlet obtained by the news outlet claims that employees are HIPAA trained and must comply with its rules.
‘Our employees know they must exercise care not to disclose information inadvertently,’ it reads.
While it’s unclear whether there will be further action against her, all violations of HIPAA warrant an investigation as they all are considered a ‘serious matter’, according to the HIPAA Journal. Some, however, are more severe than others.