Suppressed Patient Information at Core of MN Hospital Privacy Case
How far will a patient advocate go to protect the patient to whom she is assigned? And at what cost? A suburban Saint Paul MN hospital has fired a former employee who refused to return sensitive patient data (complaints made by the employee about the hospital when she was advocating for the patient) that supposedly contains potentially damaging information for the hospital’s reputation. The entire situation looks pretty messy.
Peterson, who was a patient advocate at Woodwinds, claims that she was ordered to destroy notes and e-mails about incidents that could damage the hospital’s reputation — including an allegation that a doctor was drunk while delivering a baby. She says she took the documents home to protect them.
The hospital says that her version of events “simply did not happen.” And it accuses Peterson of violating patient privacy by walking off with — and refusing to return — hospital records. Woodwinds fired her in 2010 before the missing documents came to light.
The hospital employee attempted suicide over the stress surrounding this issue. The case goes to trial in June and will decide whether the information in question — the patient’s complaints and allegations against the hospital — constitute protected, confidential, or private data to be at the discretion of the hospital or if that information is something much graver: willful attempts to cover up serious matters that could land the hospital in greater trouble. |
Michael L. Douglas, MD, MBA is the editor and proprietor of Doctor Pundit, one of the blogosphere's leading physician blogs and healthcare policy blogs. He is a geriatrician and board-certified family physician who serves as the clinical director of long term care services at the Saint Peter (MN) Regional Treatment Center, the state's inpatient forensic psychiatric facility. Dr. Douglas is ...