Archive for Medicalese

Watch Out for HIPAA!

Hippo

HIPAA . . . or did you say Hippo?

When hearing the acronym HIPAA, I often imagine a hippo.

A hippopotamus (meaning water horse from the Greek) is the third largest land animal. Cumbersome and thick-skinned, it appears to have been created by a committee forced into decisions before a deadline eliminated funding. Remarkably, the massive mammal is fast, whether running or swimming. Don’t linger if a hippo suddenly veers toward you for a meet and greet!

Maybe I think of hippo and HIPAA for another reason: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) could also be labeled big and cumbersome.

Don’t get in its way either!

HIPAA irks me. I rarely remember the acronym’s letters: HIPPA, HPPA, or HIPAH? And I usually fail to correctly identify what each of the letters represent. Doesn’t the “I” mean Information and shouldn’t the “P” be for Patient? Why, please, was the awkward “portability” ever considered as a useful word for the average consumer?

And HIPAA was designed with the average consumer in mind. The simplest way of understanding HIPAA is that it protects an individual’s medical and health data. (If you want a more complicated official explanation, you can look here.) Every health-related agency, including hospices, must follow HIPAA guidelines. If HIPAA is the Pied Piper, health care agencies are the ones trailing right behind. Every consumer—a.k.a., you the citizen, you the patient, you who accumulates massive amounts of health-related data from birth—is guaranteed privacy because of the 1996 act passed during President Clinton’s administration.

My dislike of HIPAA has other reasons. Read More →

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Facts (and Lies) On Death Certificates

causes of death How about a few thoughts on one of the most (least) popular items on your after-death to-do list?

Death certificates are among the most dismal of reading materials. But they are essential for the “business” after a loved one’s death. Since it takes time to order and acquire certificates, it’s better to purchase multiple copies. Tucking several extras into a file is likely better than scrambling to request more in the future.

On a practical note, the mortuary will probably handle the death certificate. Depending on the county, prices for certificates run the gamut from cheap to are-you-kidding! expensive. In the United States, official copies are obtained from a county clerk’s office*.

Insurance companies, banks, and similar institutions requiring proof of death frequently want the legal certificate issued with the county’s seal. However, with my parents’ estate, the companies that requested an official certificate versus those only needing a copy were never predictable. Read More →

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Hospice and the Unknown

UnknownOn the weekly list of hospice patients and their myriad illnesses, one disease seemed to glare back at me: Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

What was it? I’d never heard or read about this illness.

Later, I found this description from the Cleveland Clinic’s website:

In IPF, lung tissue becomes scarred and changes the lung’s ability to function normally. The scarring typically starts at the edges of the lungs and advances towards the center of the lungs. Typically, mild scarring occurs first, but over months to years, the normal lung tissue is replaced by more heavily scarred lung tissue, which makes it difficult to breathe and deliver needed oxygen to the body. Unfortunately, IPF is a disabling disease without a known cure and with few treatment options. The cause of IPF is unknown . . . [Italics added by me.]

After reading, I took a deep breath.

Lungs!

Air!

Life! Read More →

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