legal obligation after receiving someone's medical records?

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by swingerofbirch, Feb 28, 2007.

  1. swingerofbirch macrumors 68030

    Oct 24, 2003
    The Amalgamated States of Central North America
    I have an odd question. A few months back I requested my medical records from a hospital I had been treated at. I filled out a form I signed with my SSN etc. I received in the mail a few pages of my medical records with lots of pages of another person's records who does not even have a similar name to me. I called the hospital (on the west coast far away from me). I left them a message telling them what had happened. That weekend, on a Sunday at 10 Pm a woman called from a blocked number saying she was calling from the hospital and happened to be working late, saw my message, and said to send the records back right away. It was an odd convo because she didn't really have any information for me other than you need to send them back. She wasn't able to tell me if my information had been sent to this other person, etc. I told her that I wanted someone to call me and tell me how this had happened and if my information was released. one ever calls! Then I am so upset that I call the hospital's CEO's office and leave several messages for him that this person should be notified and that no one ever contacted me back and that they should at least send me a self adressed stamped envelope. Well no one from his office ever calls back.

    A couple weeks later I get a call from a privacy officer at the hospital wanting me to call him. I call him back and leave a message saying I need an explanation of what happened and a SASE.

    Then today I get an official letter from the privacy officer at the hospital DEMANDING that I return the records. He threatens that if I don't return them by March 9 in the letter that he will inform the person whose records I received that I received them and give him my name and address! And I was so furious that I called him and said I did not appreciate getting a vitriolic letter, that my concern from the beginning was that the woman who called me only seemed interested in getting the copies of the records back and destroying them and had no intention of contacting the person who had his records released, and that it is so ironic that he is threatening to release my identity to this person and the fact that the records were released when that's what I wanted from the beginning! He told me I was naive to think this was anything special and that it happens all the time. He said they would take all legal action available if I didn't return it in this amount of time; he claimed to have left three voice mail messages with me. I in fact only received one, and called him back immediately which he didn't respond to. And frankly no one at this hospital system EVER responds to me! I still don't have an explanation of what happened. He was so mean and rude to me. He laughed at me when I said I was concerned about this patient and said I was just trying to extort them and I was just in a state of utter loss for words because I tried to do the right thing from the very beginning. I never said I wasn't going to return it and he kept saying that wasn't true and why did it take me so long and it was them who took so long! I still don't even have the original medical information I was seeking! Of course he had no help with that. I found out they actually contract their medical records through an entirely different company.

    My heart is still pounding uncontrollably. I have an anxiety disorder and this just spun me up beyond words. I am also out of state. I packed everything in the envelope to send off tomorrow. But I feel utterly powerless and disgusted. Does he really have a legal leg to stand on making these threats? THEY sent the information to me, I have no intention of misusing or not sending it back! Sorry for going on so long, I am just gone in terms of anxiety right now.
  2. balamw Moderator


    Staff Member

    Aug 16, 2005
    New England

  3. gauchogolfer macrumors 603


    Jan 28, 2005
    American Riviera
    I think that you mean well, and you might get some good advice here, but please keep in mind that you are asking for legal advice on an anonymous internet forum for Mac enthusiasts.

    Grains of salt, and all that jazz. If you really need to know, I'd counsel seeking more legitimate legal sources.
  4. ChickenSwartz macrumors 6502a

    Jul 27, 2006
    I think that the best option is to return the records to the hospital immediately. Does it really matter if they can/will take legal action against you? If they records belong at the hospital, send them back.

    Send them back registered mail. Also you may wish to send a letter to your local district US Attorney, keep a copy of this letter and, again, send certified or registered mail. You may also contact the hospital administrator, let them know how THEY messed up and how THEY were hassling you, and how you alerted the US Attorney that they may be in violation of patient confidentiality laws. (I say to do this because this might be an ongoing problem at this hospital, if so there need to be action taken, if not more than likely nothing will happen.)
  5. question fear macrumors 68020

    question fear

    Apr 10, 2003
    The "Garden" state
    Contact a lawyer. Ask them to give you some legal advice on this, and see what it would cost to contract them to subpoena the hospital's records to insure your privacy was not invaded as well.
  6. mrkramer macrumors 603


    Jul 11, 2006
    I think that if this happens often then they are breaking some sort of law. As for you I think that you should return them, and you may be required to do so by the law but I can't tell you for sure as I am not an expert.

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