Following is a copy of the editorial from the April 7, 2005 Charleston Gazette:
Many patients don't understand the privacy rulePrior to the April 2003 implementation of the privacy rule, all health care providers were instructed to read, comprehend and educate their employees on the rule.
The complexity of the rule and lack of governmental guidance led to confusion, frustration and wasted resources.
Still, health care providers, threatened with civil and criminal penalties for noncompliance, attempted to educate their employees on the privacy rule.
Many employees were educated through brief encounters with privacy officers or referred to volumes of policy manuals.
This added to the existing confusion and resulted in inconsistencies among employees of the same entity. Again, fear of noncompliance drove health care providers to attempt to educate their consumers on the privacy rule.
Many health care providers educate consumers through their written Privacy Practices Notice. However, many consumers do not read the notice and remain uninformed of the benefits of the rule.
The government's poor implementation of the privacy rule has resulted in confused, frustrated health care providers and uninformed, dissatisfied consumers. Most importantly, consumers have not been able to reap the benefits of the new privacy safeguards.
Consumers must believe that the health care system safeguards their protected health information. Only then will individuals seek care without the fear of health information disclosure.
Peggy Engelkemier, R.N.St. Albans
Engelkemier works at Roane