Examples of Breaking HIPPA

story-medical-icons-9-2016-484x252-pngHIPPA is the privacy leviathan of our time, and it has so many ins and outs that it is sometimes hard to keep up with. If you really try to settle down and figure out the legalese, you may just implode from boredom.

However, you have to know what it is and when you are breaking the rules because you could potentially get into trouble for breaking privacy laws. HIPPA is now the standard in patient privacy protection, and this guide covers only the basics of how to break it in the most obvious ways.

If you are really interested and concerned about HIPPA and how you may possibly break it, you should talk to your facility’s HIPPA advisor. It is a lot easier than reading through the privacy statements, and it will protect you from making easy mistakes.

Talking, Talking

One easy way to break HIPPA is to simply talk. Nurses are notorious for talking in the hall, in the breakroom, and sometimes in the bar at the end of the shift.

Of course, most of us know that this is wrong, but it happens anyway. Using pseudonyms and being vague about names is the best way around it, but talking about patients in the hall doesn’t always help with things like that.

If you are giving report, you need to give it in a secure location to avoid breaking HIPPA. People can overhear report given in the hall, and that is protected information.

Talking about patients outside of their room can be a major breach of HIPPA, and if your facility has a policy of giving report in unsecured areas, you need to be an advocate for your patient’s privacy.


Technology is a great help in making nursing easier, but it can be a nightmare for HIPPA. If you walk away from a terminal with patient information displayed, you’ve just violated HIPPA.

Similarly, printing out information on a patient and then not disposing of it correctly is another violation. Anything that comes out of the patient’s electronic medical record should be shredded at the end of the shift.

When faxing and emailing, it is important to send cover letters and indications that the information is protected. In addition, the information should be sent to secure faxes and emails where only authorized individuals will be looking at the materials.

Phones and Relatives

One of the biggest ways to breach HIPPA is to give out information on a patient over the phone. Many hospitals now have security systems in place to protect information, but it can still be overwhelming to the nurse.

Imagine: you have eight patients and are trying to find the code for one particular patient to give out information to a loved one over the phone. It can be nerve wracking and definitely an area that can lead to mistakes.

Always be sure that the person you are talking to is authorized to receive information on the patient. If they do not have the code, then you need to turn them down.

This is the only way to protect HIPPA, though it may ruffle a few feathers. However, protecting yourself and your patient’s privacy is much more important than the needs of a loved one without the proper clearance.

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