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Letter to the Editor on "HIPAA: How Our Health Care World has Changed"

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May 31, 2005
in response to HIPAA: How Our health Care World has Changed 

Dear Editor:

As a Diabetes Nurse Educator, I struggle daily to maintain privacy as I teach my patients. Many of our rooms are semi-private, two-bed accommodations; and the fabric curtain between patients is never adequate for complete privacy. I believe that whenever the health care provider/patient interaction is specific to an individual patient, rather than being intended for both patients in the room, the health care provider should ask the patient for permission to discuss the topic while the roommate is within hearing distance. I think we frequently forget to do this. In my situation teaching patients how to manage their diabetes is not secret information in and of itself. However, assessing patients’ habits, diabetes control, and/or lack thereof is a private matter; and the opportunity for a completely private discussion should be offered the patient. Frequently my patients are not allowed out of the bed. Given shortened length of stays, I cannot always wait to provide instruction until they are allowed up, out of bed, and able to move to a more private location. The option left for hospitals such as ours is to move in the direction of making all patient rooms private. However, this costs money and can translate into additional lost income as fewer beds are filled on any given day. Of course the hospital wants to keep as many beds full as possible. The new privacy laws may mandate that attention be paid not only to profit margins but also to patients’ right for privacy. I am truly hopeful that the new privacy laws will drive hospitals in this direction.

Donna Conway, RN, BSN, MA, CDE
Diabetes Nurse Educator
Wesley Medical Center
Wichita, Kansas