Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Hippa Strikes Again

Last week it dawned on me that I hadn't seen Retired Missionary Couple at church in a while. I asked one of their friends if they were out of town. She said, "Oh my! No! Mrs. Missionary broke her hip last month. She was in the hospital for three weeks! They just moved her into the full nursing care portion of Our Retirement Community until she is well enough to be back in their apartment."

Of course, no one called the church office about this. I went to visit Mrs. Missionary the next day, but she was at Physical Therapy when I got there. I went back today and finally made contact. I apologized for not having visited sooner, but explained that we had not known she was in the hospital. She looked at me like I was not quite bright and said, "Well, I was in the hospital for three weeks. Didn't you see my name on their list?"

With a deep sigh, I explained that due to the Health Information Privacy Protection Act, clergy no longer have access to any "list". If no one tells us that someone is in the hospital, we won't know unless we literally trip over that person in the hospital hallway on the way to visit someone else.

I'm not sure she believed me.



Alex said...

Oh, I know! Please, folks, don't assume someone else has called the church! This happened to me a few weeks ago. I really, truly did not know this man was in the hospital. He normally works on Sundays, so I don't see him in worship very often. He was in the hospital for 4 days before someone told me. Ack!

Katherine said...

At first I thought you were speaking of a hip-breaking evil spirit named Hippa.


PPB said...

I think Hippa sucks. I think people should have the option, when they check into the hospital of saying, "I waive my hippa for the pastor list."

Songbird said...

It's very hard. Older people are hurt and feel overlooked. They remember the day when their church membership showed up in the record and the admitting office called the church secretary or the pastor. I don't know how we can ever catch up to that level of communication again.

Gord said...

Here peopleseem to assume that when I go to the hospital I peek in each room to see who is there (we have a very small hospital so this would not be a long process). I think I have finally convinced at least some that doing so would be an invasion of privacy and to let the staff know if you wnt your name and religion put on the list (yes we still have a list, for a while anyway) or have someone call me.

Presbyterian Gal said...

How about putting a short, standing note in your bulletin right under the prayer requests: "Due to the HIPPA, we are no longer notified by the medical community when our members are in the hospital. If you hear of someone who is ill or hospitalized, please call the church office."

more cows than people said...

We put a note in our bulletin long ago and still people don't call. I do get to ask if there are any Presbyterians hospitalized, but sometimes folks don't share their particular affiliation and just assume I'll somehow know. So, so tricky... Good for you for going today. Hopefully continuing care will mend any hurt.

Bag Lady said...

What you're dealing with is a very real issue. Education is so very important, because this act changed a number of things (both for the bad and the good, though many people don't know about either).

As I haved worked with attorneys specializing in civil litigation (including health care and insurance issues) for 9-1/2 years...

Not to nit-pick, but it's HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). One of the good parts is that one need not fear changing jobs (and health insurance), which, before HIPAA, meant that claims for prior conditions wouldn't be covered (the "Portability" part).

It also means that Joe Schmo can't acquire your health records. Good, but it requires an additional step: giving permission to access your records.

It does mean that people have to be pro-active -- if someone must alert family/friends that a health concern has arisen, is it so much extra to also alert clergy?

Quotidian Grace said...

Yeah, HIPPA sucks, PPB is right. More better living through government.

cheesehead said...

At the Major Health Care Monopoly Hospital where all non-veteran St Stoic members go, they still have a clergy book. Patients have the option to have themselves listed in that book, and if I wear my clergy badge (which I keep in the car) I can reach right over the counter and have a look-see.

But of course, first I have to get myself to the hospital, which means somebody in the family has to call me. I usually find out that people were in the hospital just like you did--after they are sent home or to the nursing home.

We put the HIPAA notice in the newsletter a few times a year. People still don't get it.

Presbyterian Gal said...

Sounds like y'all need a little drama written for this Hippa-nonsense-ness!

Let me know if you're interested and I'll do something up for your services. Can do for 3 minutes. All you need is someone in your congregation with performance chops and no shame.


Gannet Girl said...

I think another reason people don't call is that they (we) don't want to seem needy or attention-seeking, even on behalf of other people. We just hope the news will reach others by osmosis.

A few years ago I had minor surgery that resulted in a long and painful recovery at home. My pastor's eyes bulged out when I mentioned it in casual conversation several weeks later. I wasn't thinking about the pastoral issue at all by that point, but he was clearly porcessing a missed responsibility.

But the really painful moment was when one of those clueless-yet-pillar-of-the-church ladies greeted me, when I finally got back, with a sarcastic, "How nice to see you show up."

Tim said...

I've had the same thing happen a couple of times. To help the matter, I hand out my business card to EVERYONE in church every couple of years and explain the HIPPA thing.

When they're checked in, I encourage them to hand the card to a nurse and say "call him, please." And most nurses will do that.

Grace and Peace,