Paramedics are the first responders in emergencies seeing victims that are close to death on a routine basis. These medical professionals are bound by several federal laws to protect the privacy of patient's medical records, ensure equality in treatment, and to report a crime when a paramedic believes one has taken place. Rules like these serve to protect the medical personnel working in the field and ensure that victims receive the highest quality of medical care.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 protects the medical information of patients and limits the personnel that may view medical records. Paramedics must adhere to these laws even when responding to an emergency situation and protect the medical information of the injured. Additionally, medical personnel are not to administer care in a discriminatory manner to anyone based on race, gender, age, colour, sexual orientation, disability (mental or physical), or gender identity. To do so is a violation of federal law.
Gun Shot Wounds
Emergency medical personnel are required to report all gunshot wounds to local law enforcement officers. According to staroflifelaw.com, the website of paramedic and South Carolina attorney Pete Reid, this information is not a violation of HIPAA statutes as it is in the public interest to effectively investigate crimes and potentially prevent future acts of gun violence. Paramedics must act in good faith in these situations to remove all criminal and civil liability from failure to report information to the police. Knowingly withholding information about gunshot victims is a misdemeanour crime in most states.
The Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act went into effect on Jan. 19, 2009. This law created a voluntary system by which medical personnel may report medical errors in the field so that the data may be compiled to develop better ways of ensuring patient safety. Paramedics may use this system, known as the Patient Safety Rule, to confidentially and without fear of liability (malpractice or HIPAA violations) report events in the field to other medical personnel.