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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Ask an Expert: Should Divers Reveal Their Medications?

Is the average dive professional really qualified to safeguard — never mind interpret — your personal medical history?

By Larry Lozuk

Several years ago while managing an IT project at a large health-care provider, I witnessed my team lead being a perfect gentleman.

As we returned from lunch, he held the door open for a woman who happened to be walking into the building just as we were. She introduced herself as the facility’s compliance director for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (or HIPAA), requested his badge, and asked that he accompany her.

His seemingly innocuous act of chivalry had violated a security regulation, by passing the badge-reading system and potentially allowing someone unauthorized through an employee entrance. This led to hours of retraining for the entire team, once again covering the complex tangle of rules around security and privacy of medical records. The work we were doing was only tangentially related to health care, yet we were subject to the same confidentiality and security policies as the medical professionals who dealt directly with patient-health information.

In the scuba industry, we aren’t interested in the health of our customers, or what medication they might be taking. Really, we just want them to have a good time and then go home as healthy as they were when they came in.

However, by demanding and storing medical histories and medication lists, we willingly put ourselves in the same position as doctors’ offices, clinics and hospitals. We assume the responsibility to safeguard our customers’ medical information that, improperly disclosed, can affect their credit, their livelihoods and their lives.

We should all cringe to think of what is stored in those unlocked filing cabinets at countless dive shops across the world.

We also open ourselves up to liability by assuming the mantle of experts. While I can teach you all of the nuances of buoyancy, trim and different types of fins, I haven’t the slightest idea what drugs interact badly with one another, or with increased partial pressure of nitrogen or oxygen. Yet when I request a list of your medications, you probably have the expectation that I’m doing so for a reason, ostensibly to see if you have any conditions that are incompatible with scuba diving.

Would you be disappointed if I disclosed that I don’t even recognize any of the medication names?

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Kathy Dowsett

www.kirkscubagear.com

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