Case Analyst

Case Analyst



Case Analyst


Ethical conduct within the healthcare sector has been a common topic for several years. Of particular importance is the handling of patients’ private information by hospital staff. This issue has created much debate and triggered numerous legal battles. As of 2011, UCLA Health had to reimburse approximately $870,000 in settlements for cases that involved the violation of the HIPAA regulations by hospital staff (Wilson, 2006). Understanding the consequences of ethical conduct and the lack of it thereof will contribute greatly towards streamlining the healthcare field.

Background Statement

The major players in this ethical dilemma include Bill, a hospital consultant in charge of medical records, Ann, a personal injury attorney and Micah, an ER employee. In this particular situation, Micah’s position as an employee working in the Emergency Room presents him with an ethical dilemma. A colleague, Bill working in a completely different department has offered an opportunity to make a profit by divulging the patients’ private information concerning their trauma development.

Major Problems and Secondary Issues

From the description of the situation above, it is evident that there are several conflicts of interest among the individuals. The personal injury lawyer was interested in obtaining more clients to raise her own portfolio as a successful attorney. Therefore, she needed more clients having trauma claims. The other two parties, Bill and Micah, have almost similar priorities that are to ensure the privacy and integrity of patient’s records is maintained. The interest of the two hospital employees and the attorney inevitably clash. The situation is made worse by the fact that Bill, the consultant for the hospital is divulging private information for unethical use by the attorney without authoritative consent.

Issues concerning ethical complications within the hospital environment are governed in part by different provisions in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This and other public health services offer a significant amount of protection to the patient and their privacy. Within the HIPAA, several articles within the Privacy Rule describe the manner in which private health information can be disclosed for public use (Wilson, 2006). In this particular situation, Bill violated several HIPAA regulations that required him to seek the consent of the patient before releasing his or her information to third parties. Instead, Bill gave out this crucial information to Anna, the attorney without first seeking consent. This constituted an offence that was punishable in a court of law. Consequently, Bill was offering Micah the opportunity to exchange detailed ER information for money.

Role Played

As an employee working in the ER section, I am obligated to behave in an ethical manner while carrying out official and personal duties. These expectations were clearly outlined to me during the induction sessions and therefore, I am in full knowledge of the consequence that will accompany any unethical behavior on my part. Depending on the extent of damage or the number of charges brought against me, the ethical briefing sessions outlined arrest and heavy fines as some of the penalties I might face. The opportunity presented by Bill is extremely lucrative, and I stand to gain a lot of profit by trading the names of patients in trauma treatment within my department.

Organizational Strengths and Weaknesses

My basic duties as an employee in the ER department include entering and reconciling the patients’ records. Consequently, I am responsible for all the personal information of the clients that include their medical problems, type of treatment and progress, as well as other administrative personal information such as phone numbers, home addresses and bank information. This information is classified as private by several state regulations within the constitution (Wolf & Bennet, 2006). In the healthcare setting, HIPAA also offers similar procedures in handling private information within the Privacy Rule. Patients are briefed on their privileges and rights in the event that they believe the Privacy Rule is being violated (Hodge, BROWN & O’Connell 2004). These rights involve filing a civil suit with the Department of Health and Human Services against the employee. If I agree to become part of this conspiracy involving selling medical information in return for cash, I might be exposing myself to ethical lawsuits from the hospital, affected patients and the state.

Alternatives and Recommended Solutions

 The best solution to this dilemma would be seeking an amicable and discreet method of dissuading Bill, the consultant and Anna, the attorney from continuing with the illegal trade. A joint warning targeted at the two individuals should be the starting point. If this subtle approach fails, I have to opt for a more direct method. Considering that I am charged with the responsibility of not only entering and maintaining patient’s personal records but also maintaining the confidentiality and integrity of the same records, I am fully responsible for flagging any unethical or irregular behavior by part of the staff that may compromise the objectives of the department. Consequently, I am obligated by the federal law and the hospital to mention any of these irregularities and illegal occurrences to my immediate supervisor. While this may portray disloyalty and breed disunity within the staff members, I am certain that it is the ethical thing to do in such a situation.


This unethical behavior exhibited by Bill and Anna reflects the corrupt culture being perpetuated by other hospital employees within the country. Because of its far-reaching and severe consequences, it is imperative that fellow colleagues make an effort to eliminate such illegal behavior within the workplace. Some of these grave consequences include potential lawsuits, wastage of working hours, identity theft and other associated crimes (Armstrong, 2005).


Armstrong, D. (2005). Potential Impact of the HIPAA Privacy Rule on Data Collection in a Registry of Patients with Acute Coronary Syndrome. Archives of Internal Medicine, 165, 10, 1125-1129.

Hodge, J. G., Brown, E. F., & O’Connell, J. P. (2004). The HIPAA privacy rule and bioterrorism planning, prevention, and response. Biosecurity and Bioterrorism.

Wilson, J. F. (2006). Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Privacy rule causes ongoing concerns among clinicians and researchers. Annals of Internal Medicine, 145, 4, 313-6.

Wolf, M. S., & Bennett, C. L. (2006). Local perspective of the impact of the HIPAA privacy rule on research. Cancer, 106, 2, 474-9.

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