A Very Disturbing Found Object

I’ve long been a fan of found objects.

They could take the form of a discarded piece of still-functional furniture hauled out to the sidewalk, and quite possibly with a hand-written “Free! Take Me!” sign affixed to it with masking tape. Perhaps a photograph. A plastic toy whose time on the street has left it gravel-scratched, and therefore, to me anyway, somehow more appealing. On a morning walk to work back in June, as schools were letting out for the summer, I happened upon a rather elaborate, hand-drawn, construction and manila paper game board that some youngster presumably crafted for a school project. The name of their invented game, delightfully, is Osos Locos, and while I was disappointed that my surruptitious treasure did not include the game cards as well, I was pleased enough with my find to share it in the office–an online retailer of games, ironically–for all to enjoy, which we still do.

For some parts of this colorful chunk of the planet I now call home, I employ an advisable look but don’t touch rule. Off-puttingly soiled or otherwise unportable items upon which I stumble may only come back home with me in memory or photograpic form.

And some found objects are truly unsettling, such as the scrap of paper that I’m going to put into the shredder imminently.

I currently live a short walk from downtown in Oakland, California. There is a large, regional health care service provider whose offices I walk past (there are likely smaller others in this dense commercial area as well). On my route  this breezy morning, a small flurry of 8-1/2 x 11 sheets crosses my path, and instictively, I grabbed the nearest flutterer-by before it would no doubt have joined the others on their trek down the street toward Lake Merritt. I start to read it, I’m stopped in my tracks as my jaw drops.

Here’s a brief excerpt:

TREATMENT PLAN: continue same medications and follow -up with spine surgeon for further pain management, and pain medications, he has refills for the same pain medication. We are awaiting for input from the spine surgeon and we will order for the MRI of the right hip…

Catching my drift? This is from someone’s medical file. Blowing out and about on the street. The single page includes some of the most fundamental, must-guard private information, including but not limited to this person’s name, address, SSN, and date of birth, among other personal attributes, not the least of which are details of their ailment and diagnosis.

Now then. I’m wanting to speculate well beyond where the available facts would otherwise allow. It could be the case that the patient himself was careless with his information. I have no idea if the fluttering papers that I let pass me by are associated with this individual or not.

I just know that there is a big health care concern right nearby. I also can report that this sheet is two-hole punched along the top edge, and that it has a blue and red ink date received stamp on the back, both of which suggest that where this page came from (and should have remained) was some manner of office.

So then. In light of the necessary stories of inadequate coverage, of the ‘pre-existing condition’ shell game carriers increasingly play, in light of the millions of people whose coverage fails them, and their families (not even getting into the millions with no coverage at all), I’m bewildered and pissed at this apparent negligent disregard for privacy.

What the hell are we paying these people for?

27 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. am i off base here, or is this shit just completely outrageous?

  2. my own tend to be more of the nature type….oddly-shaped rocks, pretty leaves, feathers (always put in the freezer in a ziploc bag for 2 weeks), etc…

    but as for medical info…my daughter receives shipments from 3 different medical suppliers, and one month, along with one of her shipments we received 2 boxes that should have gone to someone else.  his name, address, and telephone number were on the invoice, and his condition was apparent from the contents of the boxes.

    it made me very wary about how my child’s medical info was being handled…

    (i, of course, called the co. and had them retrieve the packages and invoices…)

  3. breaches and would very much like to have the info so as to follow-up.  It is called Chronicles of Dissent, and it is devoted to all things relative to the 4th Amendment.

    This is a HIPAA violation in that the document is clearly not the patient’s copy.  You can notify the feds directly to report the violation. If there is patient ID which gives you a phone number or address, YOu might want to mail it to the patient or telephone the patient ask them what they would want done with the document.  They also need to know this, if possible, so that they can notify their creditors.  Medical ID theft is huge and is growing, along with the “usual” identity theft.

    Let me know if you have specific questions at my email addy (On my profile).  I can help you with the specifics.

    • pico on September 19, 2007 at 10:01 pm

    but just wanted to note that I share your love for found objects.  Half the furniture in our house is from dumpster diving, as are some of our accessories (the biggest catch was a small guitar, minus strings, that had been airbrushed electric blue with a gorgeously hand-painted design.  Why on earth would someone throw that away?)

    As for medical records, those office people are lucky they didn’t have identifying information on them, or they’d be facing a giant lawsuit (I hope) for careless disposal of confidential information.

    • jessical on September 19, 2007 at 10:07 pm

    …like other commenters, while the medical file is perhaps unfortunate, the idea of disturbing found objects is fertile poetic ground. 

    • tjb22 on September 20, 2007 at 3:01 am

    at a provider.  They didn’t want to tell me, so I got a phone call one evening before I had an appointment the following morning.  Asked me to go to all of my doctors and round up pertinent pieces of my medical history and bring them with me the following day.  Huh?  It was 4:00 in the afternoon! 

    They had “misplaced” my file.  I showed up on the data base, but evidently, the source documents were gone.  To be honest, I don’t know if they ever found them.  I only found out my records were lost because my husband happened to work at the facility in question…a fact which the office drones were apparently quite unaware. 

    Who knows where such information ends up?  I’m hoping mine was just “misplaced” as most of it was information from several years before…but geez, I was afraid to push it much further lest I end up in their basement sorting through years of paperwork looking for my own damn record.

  4. I see privacy as more of a privilege we grant to each other from time to time.  And I don’t think people should have an expectation of privacy really.  In the “old days,” if someone was sick, people would not only talk about it, but before institutionalized medicine, your neighbors might take turns sitting by your bedside.  Everyone knew who was rich and who was poor.  I’m not saying that was always a good thing.  But in an ordinary life, privacy doesn’t really make sense.  Privacy is only possible for those who can build impenetrable walls around themselves and hire private armies.  Even then, they’re really just paying people to be quiet (or threatening them if they ever write a tell-all) about what they see and hear.

    Identity theft is one thing–fraud.  But privacy is something else.

  5. i think it’s very cool that you work at a game retailer.  Games magazine was my favorite one as a kid, I loved the puzzles, my favorite was the eyebender at the back, where they’d take pictures of known objects from weird angles and you’d have to identify them.

    Whne I hear a story like yours about the perosnal information my mind travels to a man that probably walked those streets trying desperately to find a way to access others personal files who left the spot you encountered only seconds before the information would have drifted down to him if he had just stood still.

  6. the law that covers medical privacy…though it might not have been the provider–it could have been the patient himself who dropped it. In fact that seems more likely. In any case,  you might contact them and ask to speak to their HIPAA compliance officer and let them know what happened. They are in turn required to report it to the feds. They may also be able to confirm that a paper record was released to someone such as the patient (though they won’t be able to tell you that).

    I think there might also be a way to report it yourself, but I couldn’t find it in a quick google.

    I implement medical records and content management systems for a living, and I can assure you that allowing paper out of the building with anyone except authorized people is a MAJOR no no. In an electronic system such as we have, access to patient records are monitored and people are fired for looking at records they don’t need to see. 

    • pfiore8 on September 20, 2007 at 5:27 am

    thanks for this

    • Twank on September 20, 2007 at 6:12 am

    Hi homo.  (That didn’t sound right or is that just me?)  Anyhoo …

    I’m a relative newbie to blogging …. read dkos for some months, did some minor commenting/replying at another site, but I’m looking for a home.  This could be it.

    Question:  Any objection at this blog to my starting a new religion from scratch?  Definitely NOT a derivative of an already established one?

    How’s them tangents?

  7. glad I’m not in the system. It’s not the first time. Information of a medical or personal nature is traded like hot leads, mined and sold to the highest bidder. Why does it not surprise me that someone who sought care for their ailments, information would float from the air. Seeking help for life’s problems and paying for it,should not be used as weapons against us.  Data should not be legal tender. 

Comments have been disabled.