What to do if I may have accidentally breached HIPPA?

I was given a client’s (the client is a minor) father’s phone number and it was listed as a private number. I called to tell him that his child’s contract needed to be renewed. The person who picked just answered, “Hello”. I stated my name and said I needed to speak to the father. She said he wasn’t available. I said I was calling regarding a contract renewal regarding his son and hours on the contract, could she take an email address down? She said no. I hung up. Now the father is furious with me for breaching confidentiality. I called his place of business and was speaking to an employee. I had thought I called his house and was speaking to a nanny.

Asked on February 27, 2013 under Malpractice Law, Texas

Answers:

Catherine Blackburn / Blackburn Law Firm

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

From your question, I don't understand how this breached HIPAA.  HIPAA deals with "protected health information," that is - information about medical conditions and care, not contracts.

I understand that the father is furious, and you or your company may lose a client or patient over it.  However, there is no "private right of action" for HIPAA violations under federal law.  Federal agencies can take action for violations but it is unlikely they would do anything about this relatively innocent conversation.  There might be some kind of state cause of action in your state, but I doubt it.  I also doubt that the father suffered any cognizable damages from this.  Without damages, there is no lawsuit.

This situation highlights the need to keep clear and accurate records and communicate within a business very clearly and completely.  If your business system needs to be modified so that you or others do not accidentally call someone's business when you think you are calling home, then make those changes.  When dealing with protected information, it would also be a good idea NEVER to reveal anything to anyone except the patient or guardian.  It may seem awkward, but is still a good idea to say only that you are calling from ________________ for _________________ and could you have them return the call.

I hope this helps.


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