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Negligent Dissemination of Confidential Medical Information Ordinary Negligence or Medical Malpractice?

By Jack H. FarnbauchNovember 13, 2019

In June 2015, a patient received in-patient treatment at a hospital for pneumonia-related symptoms. While being visited by a co-worker, a physician entered the patient’s room and informed the patient his “CD4 count is low….you need to see your infectious disease doctor as soon as you can!” 

The patient’s co-worker had a step-brother die from HIV/AIDS and immediately recognized the inferences of discussing CD4 counts with an infectious disease doctor. 

A medical malpractice lawsuit was filed in Indiana by the patient because as a result of what the co-worker had learned while visiting the Plaintiff that day, the co-worker severed all ties with the plaintiff and several other co-workers started treating him differently. 

The plaintiff filed an action for declaratory judgment against the defendants, seeking that his claims fell outside the ambit of the MMA. The trial court denied plaintiff’s motion for declaratory judgment because healthcare was provided by a physician. 

The Indiana Appellate Court stated that plaintiff does not contend that the defendant physician’s statement led to an inaccurate diagnosis or improper treatment. Rather, in his Complaint, Plaintiff articulated his claims as to “whether the [MMA] applies to claims involving: the violation of a patient’s medical confidentiality; [and] the negligent or intentional disclosure of protected health information[.]” The fact that the defendant physician’s statement was uttered in a facility that provides health care does not, by itself, make Plaintiff’s claim fall within the purview of the MMA. Nor does the fact that Plaintiff was a patient of the defendant physician create such a claim. Instead, the test is based on the provider’s behavior or practices while acting in his professional capacity as a provider of medical services.

The Indiana Appellate Court held: “Based on these parameters, we cannot conclude that Plaintiff’s claims are within the boundaries of the MMA”... “the MMA [Indiana Medical Malpractice Act] is not applicable to claims involving negligent dissemination of protected health information and thus the trial court erred in granting summary judgment to [the defendants].”

You can read more here.