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Woman Livid After Her Doctor’s Secretary Announces Her Private Health Information To The Waiting Room

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Medical information is highly protected, especially when compared to other information about you. In the United States, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) outlines the ways covered entities need to treat your medical history.

But when Redditor throwrararararaaaaa had a piece of her own medical history announced publicly, she flipped out and threatened to report a secretary. Now the original poster (OP) is wondering if she went too far.

She’s taken her question to the “Am I the A**hole” (AITA) subReddit to find out.

She wonders:

“AITA for calling out a secretary and threatening to report her to her manager after she revealed health information?”

The story goes:

“I got a needle stick injury at work (I’m a healthcare worker) and my family doctor filled out a lab requisition for baseline bloodwork to be done. One of the tests is HIV.”

“I went to an external lab to get it done because my family MD office is closed. It’s a typical diagnostics lab. In the waiting area there are 5 other people sitting down.”

“I go to the secretary and hand her the req forms. She takes them, checks me in, and I sit down.”

“After 10 minutes she calls me back calling out my first name and says, ‘Ma’am there’s an issue with the HIV test form.’”

“EVERYBODY in the waiting area heard and gave me looks. I go up to her, very angry, I told her you cannot just announce people’s personal health information like that.”

“She says, ‘Oh it’s ok, you are getting tested just because of a workplace injury.’ I told her that’s fine, but other people don’t know that.”

“What if I had to get tested for HIV for a more personal reason? What if somebody who knew me was in the waiting area and heard I was getting tested?”

“She apologized but I told her I will be calling her manager and informing them of the incident. She rolled her eyes and said ‘Go ahead.’ in a mocking tone.”

“I told my husband what happened and he said maybe I should cut her some slack. But I told him, revealing personal health information is a huge violation.”

“It’s something that was drilled into me as a healthcare worker. I am appalled that the secretary was so blasé about it. I don’t care if she gets reprimanded or loses her job, this is not something to mess around with.”


On the AITA board, people share their situation, how they reacted, and see if they were in the wrong. The rest of the forum passes judgement.

This is done with one of the following verdicts:

  • NTA – Not the A**hole
  • YTA – You’re the A**hole
  • NAH – No A**holes Here
  • ESH – Everybody Sucks Here

Outside of the issue of a possible HIPAA violation, sharing medical information isn’t great.

People have their own reasons for keeping certain things about themselves private and providers need to consider this when speaking in open waiting rooms.

Because of this, the subReddit determined that OP was NTA.

“NTA that’s a HIPAA violation (if in the US), she can and should be fired for this. Keeping health thing private is very important” – idkwhattowritehere21

“NTA! Her behavior was wildly unprofessional (not to mention illegal under HIPAA).”

“I think her inability to understand how serious her error was and apologize mean she should seek employment in another field, preferably one where she can’t ruin people’s lives or reputations.” – cropofkismet

“NTA. What she did is a huge privacy violation and is illegal almost everywhere. This can wreck people’s lives.”

“The fact she clearly didn’t care shows she does this sort of thing all the time. You would be TA if you didn’t report her.” – RamblingManUK

“NTA. Not only did she choose to be careless with private patient information, but she was entirely unapologetic and unprofessional in the aftermath. She showed no remorse or concern for her misconduct, and that is a problem.”

“Sure, if she gets fired you may feel bad, but you will also know that she got fired because the manager of that practice doesn’t want the risk of their patients’ privacy to be compromised.”

“Based on her attitude, she clearly has no intention of correcting her behavior in the future. Would you feel better if you said nothing and she caused problems for another patients and/or got the practice sued?” – SnakesCantWearpants

Despite the consensus, OP did her best to try to empathize with the secretary. There’s a certain defensiveness that can come out when someone threatens to contact your manager.

Still, the rest of the subReddit didn’t think the worker’s actions were justifiable.

“NTA I’m admin staff in a health care setting and we know better than that. Don’t just threaten actually call the manager and if they don’t do anything escalate and escalate until someone does” – jkatbat

“It’s weekend so lab supervisor is gone, I am on hold with the lab company customer services.” –  throwrararararaaaaa (OP)

“Lmao, no! You are NTA. First, she violates both the rules, and your privacy by talking about your personal medical info in a setting with people around. Secondly, she has the gull to start being disrespectful to you afterwards.” – Xrsycs

“I think it was an automatic reaction on her part, she looked extremely nervous. I talked to my friend who is a manager at a clinic and he said he would 100% fire the secretary if he was her manager.”

“So I think her job is gone, and I can’t help but feel responsible if that actually happened.” – throwrararararaaaaa (OP)

“She doubled down on her mistake. There’s a reason why violating patient confidentiality is a fireable offense.” – birdiepet

The easy thing for the secretary to do would have been to leave out the “HIV” part of her sentence and just have informed OP there was an issue with her form. It’s also easy to see why they didn’t just leave out what the form was about, since people often try to be clear when they communicate.

But as understandable as it is, it’s important that privacy is maintained for patients. And this would probably be a non-story for OP if the secretary had just apologized for the mistake.

No one it perfect and mistakes happen. But when they do, you should own up to it, rather than try to shove them under the rug.

Written by Ben Acosta

Ben Acosta is an Arizona-based fiction author and freelance writer. In his free time, he critiques media and acts in local stage productions.