RHUer Advice Needed: Questions About Medical Office HIPAA and Employee Handbook
Hi! I started working in a medical office environment in early December and lasted up until a week ago. When I first started, everything seemed fine for the first few days. After that, little things started that had me wondering what in the world was going on.
Firstly, I have a habit of arriving early when I work, usually 20 or so minutes before the scheduled start time of 8:00 AM at this particular job since my commute was at least a half hour if not more, depending on traffic. On my fourth day there, I arrived at exactly 8:00 AM due to the expressway being at a standstill because of an accident. When I walked in, I immediately got lectured by the supervisor for being late- even though my schedule had 8:00 AM on it for that particular day and I was there right on time. When I showed her the schedule, she informed me that all employees had to be there by 7:50 AM to punch in before 8:00 AM. Incidentally, the front doors are unlocked and the lights on at 7:50 AM, though at the time I didn't have a key to unlock the doors. I asked her how I was supposed to know that I should be there at 7:50 AM when the schedule had 8:00 AM and she just repeated that it was the rule. (By the way, someone who started working there two weeks after I did got verbally reprimanded for the same thing since no one told her either. I didn't meet her until after it happened or I would have told her.)
Secondly, when I interviewed at this office, I was told that I would get a copy of an employee handbook later. I asked about signing the HIPPA confidentiality clause due to it being a medical office and because I had access to patient charts. I was told 'later' again on this, though I never did sign one. I knew about HIPPA because my mother is a nurse and told me I would have to sign one due to working with patient records and charts. Throughout my employment there, I repeatedly asked to see a handbook, even on my last day, at which point I was told that it was being revised...
Third, I received a write up about a week and a half before I left the practice. When I started working, several of the computers there had downloaded images for the desktop image. One morning before work (around 7:35 AM), I did the same for the computer I used, downloading an image of a kitten and using it for the main screen image. In all honesty, I didn't know it wasn't allowed due to the other computers having pictures that the other workers downloaded from online as well. The next time I worked, I was taken aside by the supervisor and told that she had to write me up for downloading the picture because I could have downloaded a virus (not likely but I concede the point). I asked about the other computers and the fact that they had images that had also been downloaded, which I was told that it was done before it became a rule. I told her honestly that it seemed rather petty and that I didn't think this job was working out, which when she asked me why I pointed out that I was constantly getting yelled at by both her and one of the medical assistants because I didn't know something that it would have been impossible for me to know since I was never told. After being pressed for an example, I reminded her of my second day there when the phones were ringing like crazy with patients needing appointments and that she had yelled at me to answer the phones and help the patients, which at the time I had no working knowledge of the phone (the particular phone at my computer did not automatically pick up a ringing line when lifted, different lines had to be pressed and I also had no idea of how to place calls on hold or transfer them) and when I did not have access to any computer systems to schedule appointments. I reminded her that I didn't know how the phones worked as the phones were completely different from the phones I had used at prior jobs and that I could not do any scheduling, at which point she rolled her eyes and continued working. To be honest, I felt horrible having to sit there and not being able to help, though I was brushed off when I asked about the phones on my first day. For the record, I didn't learn the phones or get access to the computer systems for almost a week, so I was basically getting paid to sit there and watch everyone else, aside from putting up the encounter forms for the others so they could do the things I couldn't.
Fourth, the night after the write up, I wound up spiking a 103.7 degree fever and was taken to Urgent Care by my mother, where I was diagnosed with an acute sinus infection, bronchitis, and the flu. I texted the supervisor immediately to let her know that I would be unable to work until the following Monday (which meant I was going to miss one day of work). When Sundaycame, I was still running a 101.2 fever. I called the Urgent Care and told them, they told me I could not return to my job until I was fever free for 24 hours and put me off work until Wednesday. I again let the supervisor know and was told it was fine, just make sure to bring in a doctor's note. I returned to work on Thursday (being scheduled off on Wednesday) with no fever though still congested and coughing frequently. It was a busy morning for a while, then the manager came out, looked around, and went back in her office. A few minutes later, the supervisor came up to me and told me I wasn't allowed to answer the phones or do any scheduling. I was confused, though brushed it off a few minutes later and printed out the call list for the next day's appointments, intending to do the reminder calls. From where she was sitting, the supervisor turned to me and told me that she had just gotten a call from the manager who wanted to know why I wasn't alphabetizing the charts (which no one had asked me to do). She then said she needed to talk to me before I went home that day. After working on the folders in two bookcases, I sat down for just a moment to drink some of my water, at which point the supervisor came and took me into a secluded office. I was informed that the front office was being restructured and that from then on, I would only be working one day a week for four hours. I asked if there was a reason why, if it was my job performance or being sick, though the only thing I was repeatedly told was that it was because of the 'restructuring'. The manager of the front office never said a word to me about it or offered an explanation when I came in the next day to turn in my smocks and give the key to her. Normally, I would never have left a job without giving a two week notice, but in this case when there was no warning and when the manager didn't have enough respect for me to tell me the real reason why. If I had worked a two week notice it would only have been 8 hours for those two weeks which wouldn't have been enough money to even buy groceries with, let alone fill my gas tank up.
My questions are as follows: first, are employees working in a medical office required to sign a HIPPA form? Secondly, are employers required to give a handbook when an employee asks for one? I asked for one several times and was constantly given the excuse of 'later'. I'm pretty doubtful that it was legal for me to be written up for something I did off the clock but I could be wrong. Any advice would also be helpful.
"she informed me that all employees had to be there by 7:50 AM to punch in before 8:00 AM."
"she just repeated that it was the rule."
"Well, your rule is criminal payroll fraud."
You list a whole litany of illegal practices. Depending on what state you live in, it might be worth a complaint to the labor board (California, for instance, loves to crucify employers).
Other than that, unless you've for $100,000 for legal fees to sue them, not much you can do except get a job for people who aren't retarded assholes.
Posted by: plus.google.com/108073606865059711666 | Tuesday, January 31, 2017 at 10:47 AM
Yes! Anyone who works in the medical field is required to not only sign but strictly adhere to the HIPPA rules!
You should be able to report the unsigned sheet, stating that they made you work with client files without signing one.
Posted by: Neverdie | Tuesday, January 31, 2017 at 02:17 PM
Who do I report the unsigned sheet to? Additionally, I forgot to mention that the state this occurred in is Kentucky.
Posted by: SebbyFuqua | Tuesday, January 31, 2017 at 03:19 PM
Absolutely EVERYONE who has even the slightest chance of glimpsing patient information must sign HIPPA agreements. Before starting my EMT clinicals, I had to take and pass a freaking HIPPA quiz and sign the forms.
Posted by: ShutterBug | Tuesday, January 31, 2017 at 03:47 PM
Not to be that guy, but guys, it really is HIPAA, two As and one P...
That aside, they're all right. You should have been signing that before they even let you breathe in the direction of patient info.
Posted by: Kai Lowell | Tuesday, January 31, 2017 at 08:10 PM
I know, realized it after the fact :( I was so frustrated and upset about the entire situation that I didn't realize how I spelled it.
I asked the manager about the HIPAA form repeatedly and was always told 'later', I even reminded the supervisor that I hadn't signed it. I essentially worked there for two months and my duties were scheduling patients (which gave me access to their charts), scanning things into medical records such as lab results, MRIs, X-Rays, etc, and printing out things for patients to come pick up, such as vaccination records for their child. And for the record, no one in a position of authority ever spoke to me about HIPAA and what it meant. This was my first position in a medical office; the only reason I knew about HIPAA is because my mother (an RN) emphasized to me how serious HIPAA is for any position in the medical field. Hence why I asked about signing the form from the first day I started working. Is this something I report to the Department of Health and Human Services or do I need to do it elsewhere? The complaint forms I've found so far are for people who believe that HIPAA has been violated in regards to their information. In this situation, it's not my personal information but the information of all those patients. I don't know if the other newcomer signed a HIPAA form or not but considering that I never did, I have my doubts. The day I turned my things in to the manager, I saw another new employee being trained in the front office and I have the same concerns in regards to HIPAA. I will say that I know HIPAA nearly fined them once before due to the referrals person not having an office with a closed door when she was speaking with patients and scheduling their X-Rays, etc.
Posted by: SebbyFuqua | Tuesday, January 31, 2017 at 10:24 PM
I've heard similar stories in r/talesfromretail, if you want to take vindictive action or are genuinely concerned about the safety of patient confidentiality, you may make a complaint to DHHS OCR (Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights)
I have heard of cases where the business was shut down like this. The penalties are quite substantial.
Posted by: Sgtpsycho | Wednesday, February 01, 2017 at 12:11 PM
No worries Sebby, I honestly didn't notice you'd misspelt it till I read all the comments and then scrolled back up. That's just one of my personal bugbears. You're fine. :)
Posted by: Kai Lowell | Wednesday, February 01, 2017 at 01:06 PM