Single tweet by hospital employee to Mississippi governor allegedly violates HIPAA, forces her to resign

WLBT video embedded above.

From the local WLBT TV station:

"A tweet to Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour ended with a University Medical Center employee resigning from her job. Last Tuesday Governor Haley Barbour wrote this on his Twitter page, "Glad the Legislature recognizes our dire fiscal situation. Look forward to hearing their ideas on how to trim expenses."
Less than an hour later Jennifer Carter, a former administrative assistant for UMC's nursing school, tweeted this to Governor Barbour, "Schedule regular medical exams like everyone else instead of paying UMC employees over time to do it when clinics are usually closed."
Carter was referring to an incident she was told about by several UMC staffers three years ago. She claims the Governor came to the Pavilion on a Saturday when it is usually closed and had it specially staffed with 15-20 people all for a check up.
Carter doesn't believe her Tweet broke any privacy laws that protect patients. Attorney Terris Harris said just because the Governor is a public figure doesn't mean his health information can be public knowledge."

Woman out of a job after sending tweet to Governor Barbour. WLBT, a Raycom Media Station.
Link via @EdBennett.


  1. The nurse did not give out any medical info on the governor. Obviously this was vindictive on the part of the governor.

  2. Re: "The nurse did not give out any medical info on the governor."

    She was not a nurse.

    Just sharing the fact that a person was at a hospital (without their consent to release this info) is a HIPAA violation.

    Just to clarify.

  3. More on the topic:

    Tweet By Hospital Employee: What information is considered PHI?

  4. Woman was not employed in clinical department. She had no personal first hand knowledge other than what was public knowledge for three years. Therefore could be strongly argued not subject to HIPAA. Furthermore, Barbour's action appears vindictive in telling his people to track down the individual and get even. Surely had the remark been complimentary he would not have taken action. To some of us it appears that Barbour is falsely invoking HIPAA to shut up a critic.

    This will follow him if he has further political aspirations. Appearance of bullying is not appreciated by female voters. Some believe he needs to apologize, make this poor young woman whole financially and assure that she has employment equal to or better than that she was forced to leave.

    Anything less will cost him politically.

    Move along now ... no HIPAA violation here ....

  5. Re: " no HIPAA violation here ...."

    Actually, from the facts at least, it looks like there was one.

  6. HIPAA governs the dissemination of Protected Health Information (PHI). PHI is any information held by a covered entity which concerns health status, provision of health care, or payment for health care that can be linked to an individual.An individual who believes that the Privacy Rule is not being upheld can file a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR).[22][23] However, according to the Wall Street Journal, the OCR has a long backlog and ignores most complaints. "Complaints of privacy violations have been piling up at the Department of Health and Human Services. Between April 2003 and Nov. 30, the agency fielded 23,896 complaints related to medical-privacy rules, but it has not yet taken any enforcement actions against hospitals, doctors, insurers or anyone else for rule violations. A spokesman for the agency says it has closed three-quarters of the complaints, typically because it found no violation or after it provided informal guidance to the parties involved."

    What was disclosed was simply that the man was at the cinic. period. no information as to WHY or WHAT. Therefore does not meet the standard of PHI. Complaints MUST be filed as above NOT through personal connections and NO ONE should be disciplined until a ruling from HHS has been made.

    The governor has been humiliated and is taking it out on this employee trying to expose waste and corruption. More power to her and shame on the governor, the hospital and all those who support this sort of abuse of the system.

    DrElena (twitter)

  7. "DrElena" can post whatever words she wants, but it doesn't make them true. ANY health data that personally identifies a specific individual - as this tweet clearly did - is covered by HIPAA. End of argument.

    If this woman had made such a tweet about me, I'd have been sxreamig at the university to have to fired as well. And they would have done it, since the violation is so obvious. The only difference is that Barbour, as governor, may have scares hospital administrators into moving a day or two faster than they would have for me.