911 Broadcasts: A Privacy Invasion?

See the full article on GovInfoSecurity.com: 911 Broadcasts: A Privacy Invasion?

The extensive news media coverage of a 911 emergency call about actress Demi Moore is calling attention to an important issue: The need to protect privacy…

…Daniel Solove, professor at the George Washington University Law School, wrote in a blog that the release of 911 calls violates the constitutional right to privacy. He also argues that although 911 call centers are not HIPAA-regulated, like a hospital or a physician, they often provide healthcare advice.

Solove writes: “If the call from Demi Moore’s home had been to a hospital or a doctor or any other type of healthcare provider, public disclosure of the call would be forbidden. Why isn’t a 911 call seen in the same light?” And that, indeed, is a good question.

Deborah Peel M.D. of Patient Privacy Rights argues that release of a 911 tape or transcript should be considered a HIPAA violation because the 911 operators “are in effect working on behalf of hospitals and emergency centers as part of the patient’s treatment team.”

Peel highlights another risk involved in publicizing 911 calls: “If the public realizes that 911 calls can be made public, then anyone with a medical emergency they don’t want the information to be seen by the local media or read by everyone in the city or state will stop calling and risk their lives.”

A HIPAA Violation?

So why are audio tapes of 911 calls broadcast so commonly on TV? Well, technically, 911 services aren’t covered entities under HIPAA because they don’t directly deliver or bill for healthcare, says attorney Robert Belfort of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP.

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