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Personal Statement and HIPAA

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Sleight

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So I was writing the first draft of my personal statement and I thought about HIPAA because I was talking about a specific patient that I worked with. I didn't give any specific details except age (child), type of illness, and the fact that he was alone in the hospital...I would hate to have the committees look at it and say I was violating HIPAA rules and therefore obviously don't know anything about medicine...any specific regulations regarding this that anyone can find?
 

funkydrmonkey

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So I was writing the first draft of my personal statement and I thought about HIPAA because I was talking about a specific patient that I worked with. I didn't give any specific details except age (child), type of illness, and the fact that he was alone in the hospital...I would hate to have the committees look at it and say I was violating HIPAA rules and therefore obviously don't know anything about medicine...any specific regulations regarding this that anyone can find?

In my secondaries, I wrote extensively about a patient, his nickname, and his disposition, and none of my interviewers took offense to it...
 

aznb0y129

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So I was writing the first draft of my personal statement and I thought about HIPAA because I was talking about a specific patient that I worked with. I didn't give any specific details except age (child), type of illness, and the fact that he was alone in the hospital...I would hate to have the committees look at it and say I was violating HIPAA rules and therefore obviously don't know anything about medicine...any specific regulations regarding this that anyone can find?

I'd say you're fine as long as you don't mention full names. I talked about specific patients in my personal statement as well, occasionally using first names only or last names only (Mr. X). It would be pretty tough to determine who you're referring to w/o additional information like SSN or DOB, etc.
 

fahimaz7

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Don't provide material that will identify the patient. So, if you want, change the name of the patient or use initials. Don't say something like...

"When I was shadowing X doctor in December of 2005, I met a young woman, nearly 25 years old, with endometrial carcinoma (T3N1aM0) and her name, like my mothers, was Carol Lee.

There's no reason to put the real names, age, or even location of the event in a personal statement.
 

Sangria

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It's fine as long as you don't give too many specific details that would allow the patient to be easily identified
 
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So I was writing the first draft of my personal statement and I thought about HIPAA because I was talking about a specific patient that I worked with. I didn't give any specific details except age (child), type of illness, and the fact that he was alone in the hospital...I would hate to have the committees look at it and say I was violating HIPAA rules and therefore obviously don't know anything about medicine...any specific regulations regarding this that anyone can find?

You didn't put anything identifiable in your personal statement if you confined your remarks to what you stated above. There is not HIPAA violation here unless you named the patient.
 

linguini

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Be careful with mentioning a last name, if it is not a common one. A unique last name combined with a particular hospital/clinic (which I assume you mentioned in your application) could potentially be enough to define a specific patient.

I'd say you're fine as long as you don't mention full names. I talked about specific patients in my personal statement as well, occasionally using first names only or last names only (Mr. X). It would be pretty tough to determine who you're referring to w/o additional information like SSN or DOB, etc.
 

Handyman73

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Violating medical privacy is very unprofessional, but you probably aren't liable to HIPAA unless you were in a paid position in relation to the patient. (The facility you were at might be liable for your actions while you were acting as an agent on their behalf, however...)
 

aznb0y129

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Be careful with mentioning a last name, if it is not a common one. A unique last name combined with a particular hospital/clinic (which I assume you mentioned in your application) could potentially be enough to define a specific patient.

Yeah, I was cognizant of that. But it was sort of necessary for the way I wrote my personal statement. I haven't gotten any complaints in interviews or otherwise.
 

Bacchus

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I named my physician, but kept her anonymity using Dr. B. When I talked about a specific patient all I used was he, him, his, etc. Don't use DOB, full name, MRN, address... you get the picture.
 

Vihsadas

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Just use an initial like you often see in case studies:

"Mrs. W" is what I used.
 

skrilladoc

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I would prefer using X-Men names such as patient Wolverine (useless because he heals himself) and Dr. Xavier....hopefully you shadowed a psychiatrist.
 

han14tra

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I used a fake name in my personal statement and changed her age too.
 

shaggybill

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Don't worry about it. You weren't even close to violating any HIPPA crap if that's all you put. You could have used the kid's first name and no one would have blinked an eye.
 

LizzyM

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If the condition is a relatively common one for hospitalized children and you used just the first name, you might not offend anyone and I wouldn't consider you in violation of privacy laws. It might be even better to use a psudonym.

Interesting story: a colleague on the adcom had a disabled son who attended a special school. Someone listed that school as the site of his volunteer work and in his essay said that he was motivated to be a doctor because of his work with "Daniel" at that volunteer site. My colleague put 2 and 2 together and recused herself from the admission decision. Her son, Daniel, had died only a few weeks earlier.
 

Sleight

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The boy that I am talking about was the victim of a shooting...not exactly your day to day case but also not very uncommon enough to make it stand out. I think I will avoid using his name just to be safe...
 

Bacchus

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Well considering you're from Alaska, if this happened in Alaska it could probably be found via google. Don't use the name. Its not going to make you appear any less unauthentic.
 

Mumsy

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I work for a relatively well-known medical school. Every year we are required to file a document stating where we keep any/all PHI. If I have sent one email with any patient name, DOB, picture, MRN, SS#, etc, I must say that I keep emails with PHI. I must also state where I keep files with PHI, paper, electronic, as well as, CDs and DVDs.

In addition, I work in a HIPPA compliant room. It has a stand alone lock which is accessed only by card key by the employees in the room. All others must knock for entry.

If you don't think medical schools take HIPPA seriously, you are underestimating them.

I would take every precaution to protect the patient's privacy. I would use a fake name for the pt and the physician. I might refer to the physician as Dr. A. or Dr. C. and I'd be sure the real name of the institution was integral to the story or I would consider changing that too.


Good luck -


Mumsy
 

LizzyM

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I would take every precaution to protect the patient's privacy. I would use a fake name for the pt and the physician. I might refer to the physician as Dr. A. or Dr. C. and I'd be sure the real name of the institution was integral to the story or I would consider changing that too.


Good luck -


Mumsy


The physician's name need not be keep private although I would advise it is you were to include something negative about the practitioner. If the name is already on your list of contacts (on the list of experiences) or is a letter of recommendation writer it helps to put the event described in the essay in perspective and gives credit where credit is due. I was quite flattered to read an essay about an outstanding practitioner identified by name and realize that the applicant had been my brother's patient!
 
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