Friday, January 6, 2012

Privacy in divorce?

This is an interesting story about privacy at the pharmacy, and how easily we give out protected information.

Walgreens Lets Ex Husband Change Account Info, View Prescription History

I think that the first thing to learn from this situation is that if you grant someone the right to view your health information, you need to revoke it, and you need to do that right away.  It sounds as though the woman in this article found out her ex had access to her information after he changed it, so that first part is on her head.

The second thing to learn is that pharmacies need to train both clerks and technicians better about how to use the computers.  Clerks generally are limited to information handling only and sometimes have restricted computer database privileges.  State laws generally draw a line between pharmacy technicians (who are licensed and trained in some basic drug information, and have continuing education requirements) and other pharmacy staff (in my state called clerks).  Some pharmacies choose not to have a clerk at all and instead have technicians who also handle the cash register when needed, like the one I work in now.  Larger chains like Walgreens are often trying to pinch every penny and because a clerk doesn't have to know much more than how to search a database and run a cash register, they can be paid less than a technician, plus can cover the front of store register sometimes as well.  This makes for a gap in patient safety.

I'm honestly surprised it was possible for this to happen.  The pharmacies I have visited were adamant that they have a signature on file before giving anyone but the person in question a copy of a prescription
 history.  Since it's tax time, many people have been in to the pharmacy where I work asking for just such a thing.  Without the actual person involved present, no records will be printed.  We record the drivers' license or social security number of whoever picks up the information.  There's a paper form you could take home and forge, yes, but forging things is illegal and therefore it isn't the pharmacy's fault anymore.  Here, if I have my guess, Alice gave her husband permission to pick up her information for taxes once and it was hard to remove that, and even once removed from her record, it was hard to find that it was gone.

One significant problem I've noticed is that most pharmacy software doesn't have a pop-up notes feature.  If you could put up a note that popped up and had to be clicked to close and access the rest of the record, it would ensure that changes like this were noticed by everyone.  Right now most software has a notes field but it often isn't very visible and new staff or hurried staff might easily miss it.  While it might slow things down to have one of those pop-ups on a record, it's probably worth it.  Large pharmacies might have 20 people working in them at any given moment and well more than that within a week, so it would be difficult to tell every single person that some significant piece of information about one patient changed, and even moreso for everyone to remember it for any length of time.  Remember, smart computer design can help, but really everyone needs to be responsible for their health information.

1 comment:

  1. I work in a family practice medical center, and even though we have a brand new expensive EHR system, it drives me nuts how it obviously wasn't designed by someone in the medical industry who needs to think about HIPPA, etc. Scary sometimes to think about!