What Whistleblowers Should Know About HIPAA

Potential whistleblowers in a medical setting should be familiar with HIPAA and its implications if they are to establish a viable case that does not violate the rights of other people.

It’s generally suggested that whistleblowers have documentary proof to boost their credibility in a case and to demonstrate you have information that can lead to a successful action. However, if you have information about healthcare fraud, there’s a good chance those documents will be covered by HIPAA.

There may be some limits on your ability to collect evidence due to doctor/patient privilege and other considerations. Whistleblowers must be careful about copying documents or recording any conversations to support their allegations if those documents or conversations will contain any potentially violating information.

Know the risks

If you are going to put yourself in a situation where you could potentially violate HIPAA to provide information about healthcare fraud, it’s important to know that there is precedent for courts punishing whistleblowers for carelessness with personal health information protected by HIPAA.

However, HIPAA does include some protections for vital whistleblower activities. It is crucial, then, that you work with an attorney and understand these protections and whether they apply to you.

For example, one such protection is a protected disclosure of HIPAA-protected material both to a whistleblower attorney and the government, so long the whistleblower has a good-faith belief that his or her employer provided unlawful, unprofessional or otherwise dangerous care to a patient. In this case, sharing personal health information does not constitute a HIPAA violation.

Another protection is “de-identification,” in which a whistleblower takes personal health information but redacts information such as names, geographic places and dates that could identify a patient.

For more information about what you should know about HIPAA before blowing the whistle on healthcare fraud, contact an experienced attorney at Kardell Law Group.