Straight Talk | So much for medical privacy



In 1996, Congress passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act setting standards for the electronic exchange, privacy and security of health information. Commonly known as HIPPA law, it was designed to protect everyone’s health records. Hospital and medical office employees are warned not to divulge patient names even if they’re relatives, friends or co-workers. It seems everyone does a good job abiding by the law, unless, of course, you’re admitted to the hospital.

Recently, an emergency episode required an overnight admission. I was placed in a room with another patient and by the time I went home late the next day I knew as much about his medical problems as some of his relatives, maybe more, and they knew my health challenges as well. I knew he had to eat more fiber and was told to take Metamucil and walk more, along with other personal medical advice. Even though I was talking on the phone and trying to avoid listening, the patient’s doctor was as loud as President Trump delivering his State of the Union address. After the doctor left, I was tempted to offer him a delicious fiber bar, but didn’t.

Within an hour, it was time for my roommate and his family to hear one of my doctors lecture me on medicine protocols. To put it mildly, it was a healthy and spirited discussion, at times, a debate. When he left, the “next door” family members congratulated me on holding my own. I expected patients down the hall to holler comments as well. They didn’t, but probably could.

The point is HIPPA laws are a joke. The answer obviously is private rooms. Unfortunately, I was admitted when census was high and hospitals were forced to reinstall shared rooms to avoid hall beds. My roommate and I and everyone within earshot can smile about the exchange of personal medical information. No big deal, but what if our conditions were serious or critical?

How about the big clinics?

I’m old enough to remember when there were doctors in solo practice, or with another physician. How times have changed. Today, doctors have formed medical cartels. Some even perform surgical procedures in parts of their large clinics. Most are owned by hospitals. Bigger doesn’t always mean better. Last year, I wound up visiting one of those large clinics with as many doctors on the roster as an NFL football team. As I stood in line waiting to register and be told where to go, visions of shopping at a Walmart danced in my head. Directions were given when I verified I could pay. I then ambled like cattle on a Weaver farm to join other “livestock” in a large waiting room. Interestingly, there were no smiles and little conversation. Geez, I thought, this is not good. Every now and then an employee asked if Bob or Wilma or Ted or Sally was in the room. When it was my turn, a woman dressed in the uniform color of the day called out my first name, and then walked me into a room. She asked me some questions, performed a simple and quick procedure and told me to return to my seat along with the others. Quickly, a member of the herd came over and said, “Roger. What are you here for cataracts?” I replied, “No, hemorrhoids.” I said it quietly because some people might think I was serious and some might not think I was funny. So much for HIPPA.

I raise this subject because it was announced this past month that hackers had obtained the records of 150 million people registered with Equifax, a credit reporting agency. Today more than ever, our lives are an open book. Having said that, please know, I have no plans to tell you who my constipated roommate was.

Let’s not let it happen again

On a serious note, I’ve been haunted by the death of 80-year-old Joyce Huxdall. I didn’t know the elderly woman who froze to death in her unheated home at 525 East Melbourne, but I felt her pain, her suffering. Still do. The woman died alone as newspapers piled up on the porch and letters gathered in her mailbox. No one cared, though someone in the neighborhood finally called police for a welfare check. It was too late. Way too late. Nearby churches with Sunday sermons designed to save souls, failed to save her life. Did anyone know her? Should they have known her? Was she a recluse? If so, was that an excuse to ignore her? Where were relatives?

I’m told she had some. Think about her death. Alone. The furnace quit working and she sat there, slowly freezing, and feeling the loss of life because no one cared. The story was printed and broadcast and everyone has forgotten. I haven’t. Readers should remember. We all should.

What can we do to prevent it from happening again? May I suggest a Neighborhood Watch? We had such a campaign years ago to prevent crime. How about trying it again to save lives of the elderly? How about churches doing a better job of reaching out to the elderly whether they’re “churched” or “unchurched?” How about police patrols in neighborhoods to learn who lives alone? How about caring? That might be a good place to begin. Joyce Huxdall, I’m sorry we failed you.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen returning to TV

There’s a good chance that Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen is returning to television. If you’re old enough, you may remember his #1 rated Saturday night television show, “Life Is Worth Living.” Nancy and I, good Methodists, watched with great interest this wonderful Catholic inspire us each week with his humor and faith messages. Former Peorian, writer and filmmaker, Sean Fahey has teamed with actor and fellow movie writer Dieterich Gray to produce a television mini-series on the life of Archbishop Sheen, a native of El Paso, Illinois.

Fahey was a guest on our radio program, “Breakfast with Roger and Friends,” and told how the two men started development of the planned series in 2014. Much has yet to be done, but their goal is produce a 12-part historical drama about Bishop Sheen’s remarkable life. He died in 1979 at the age of 84.

Quote of the month

“In journalism, the modern man wants controversy, not truth.”
– Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

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