Re-Inventing Pharmacies: What Does HIPAA Ask?

Walgreens has been experimenting with bringing the pharmacist out in front of the counter in their stores — ostensibly for better customer access but, even more importantly, for better patient access now that pharmacies are health care delivery centers for immunizations, routine lab testing, etc. This has been going on for a few years in selected markets (New York City for one). But now we know it has reached Massachusetts because the HIPAA fur is starting to fly with union backed Change to Win initiating a complaint that the new physical layout makes personal individualized health information available to passers by in violation of HIPAA.  The new physical layout also appears to be based on a remote monitoring system whereby a pharmacist supervises pharmacy technicians who may not be in direct view, as they might have been when pharmacists worked cheek by jowl with technicians. You should know that Walgreens stores are overwhelmingly non-union.

it is reported that some state  pharmacy boards have concerns with safety issues inherent in this kind of alteration to the "direct supervision" standard.  At the very least, we can look forward to some clarification of what "direct supervision" means in this context and in this time. In a world where the delivery of health care in the acute care hospital setting is now routinely scrutinized by remote observers who then intervene when detecting error or the need for consultation, can pharmacies hope to remain immune from the changes happening around us?

Interestingly, much less is heard of the HIPAA compliance issues  –  many pharmacies reportedly having to be trained not to leave individual prescription records open to public view when organized by first initial and last name (BNA, 5/9/14).  As someone with a distinctive last name, this one hits close to home.

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