The Ohio appeals court has held that a patient is not entitled to the medical records of a former hospital roommate suspected of having an infectious disease. In so doing, the court overruled the trial court’s determination that the roommate’s medical records fell within a non-statutory exception to the physician-patient privilege. In the case, a patient who contracted a staph-resistant infection known as MRSA after being in the hospital for back surgery alleged the hospital improperly gave her a roommate with MRSA, contending she heard two nurses discuss the fact that the roommate was infected. As part of her personal injury claim, the patient requested a copy of the roommate’s medical chart. The hospital refused to disclose the records, contending the physician-patient privilege protected the roommate’s medical records from disclosure and that the patient already knew the roommate’s identity since they had shared a room for four days. Both a magistrate and the trial court concluded the patient could have the records with the roommate’s name and date of birth redacted, determining the patient’s right to prove her personal injury case outweighed the non-party roommate’s right to physician-patient confidentiality, and ordered a limited redacted amount of the roommate’s medical records be disclosed. In reversing the magistrate and trial court, the Ohio appeals court found that neither the statutory exceptions to the physician-patient privilege nor the limited common law exceptions to the privilege applied to the facts at hand. The appellate court also noted that redaction “does not remove the confidential or privileged nature” of the records.
TIP: Exceptions to physician-patient confidentiality will vary according to jurisdiction.