Q&A: Ambulance runs and public records


From The Indianapolis Star:

Q: I’m trying to obtain information about ambulance runs to certain addresses. A Carmel EMS official said she couldn’t release anything because of HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). The state’s administrative code requires EMS “run reports” to have a whole list of information, at minimum. I’d be willing to settle for time, date, address and chief complaint with no names. Do I have a case?

A: You’ve touched on a sore point for me. The information you seek, including names, used to be part of the record available to the public. But when HIPAA passed, the health community panicked.

Everyone was afraid of losing federal funding, so legislators changed statutes. HSPA worked with hospitals lobbyists to save what we could, but that didn’t include anything that would identify the patient (name, address, etc.).

Since then, case law has shown that if state law prescribes the release of certain information, it trumps HIPAA’s confidentiality requirements. So if Indiana hadn’t changed the law we would still have access to this type of information.

It’s on my wish list to change, but I have to overcome the concern about individual privacy with key legislators.

Below, I’ve copied IC 16-31-2-11(d), concerning ambulance reports. It lists what must be made available to the public. Note that address isn’t included:

(d) This subsection applies to emergency ambulance services that are provided by or under a contract with an entity that is a public agency for purposes of IC 5-14-3. The following information, if contained in a pre-hospital ambulance rescue or report record regarding an emergency patient, is public information and must be made available for inspection and copying under IC 5-14-3:

(1) The date and time of the request for ambulance services.

(2) The reason for the request for assistance.

(3) The time and nature of the response to the request for ambulance services.

(4) The time of arrival at the scene where the patient was located.

(5) The time of departure from the scene where the patient was located.

(6) The name of the facility, if any, to which the patient was delivered for further treatment and the time of arrival at that facility.

Contact Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel, with media law questions at skey@hspa.com or (317) 624-4427.