HIPAA limits patient disclosures

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By Carol A. Clark

The Los Alamos County Fire Department responds to daily calls ranging from house, car, building and brush fires to emergency medical calls, canyon rescues, automobile accidents and false alarms.

Assistant Fire Chief/Fire Marshall Michael Thompson explained that because the vast majority of calls received pertain to medical issues, the fire department is limited in what they can disclose to the public by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1999 (HIPAA Act).

“HIPAA is a set of rules that doctors, hospitals and other health care providers and responders are required to follow,” Thompson said. “HIPAA went into effect on April 14, 2006, and its purpose is to help ensure that all medical records, medical billing and patient accounts meet certain consistent standards with regard to documentation, handling and privacy.”

Beginning with April, the LAFD is summarizing the calls they receive into six categories including fires, false alarms, emergency medical calls, falls, automobile accidents, canyon rescues and an “other” category. The other category involves non-emergency investigations, public assists, standby events and other similar activities.

LAFD responded to 127 calls from April 1-30:

• Fires – 2

• False Alarms – 22

• Emergency Medical Calls – 69

• Falls – 7

• Automobile Accidents – 4

• Canyon Rescues – 0

• Other – 23