On filling out a HIPAA form.

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“It’s time to update this,” she said. She slid the form through the gap in the Plexiglas.

I smiled.

I knew the form.

It’s the HIPAA contact information form that our health system uses.

HIPAA, the “Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act”. The form simply says who can view my information, outside of those who are giving me healthcare. I have a pang of annoyance at the misuse of the idea, the way the phrase is tossed at people. “I want to print out an explanation of HIPAA” I overheard a nurse telling someone in the ER. I’d love to know the story, for all the wrong reasons.

I was grateful for some time before my blood pressure test.

I was in for my annual physical, more annual now that I know that our insurance plan covers it, more annual now that I know the value of early diagnosis, of regular checks. Now that I know what can happen when there is no primary physician in the electronic medical record when a person arrives, and dies, in the emergency room. Now that I know how quickly things can change.

I see the HIPAA form often. I’m a hospital chaplain. We use these forms to find the next of kin when a patient arrives unable to speak.

As I picked up her pen, I was committed to legibility. I know what it’s like to not being able to read this handwritten information, to not be sure of the actual phone number of the patient’s sibling as the minutes matter.

Deep breath. Remember the blood pressure.

The first line is Nancy. Spouse. DOB. Got it. Phone number.

I laughed. After a decade of having to check her number in my phone, my week-old-resolution to learn the actual number paid off.

The second line is Hope. I got the last name right first try. After six years with this name (their anniversary was this month), I am finally learning. But I quickly filled in the relationship so that it would be clear that the person with the different last name belongs. Daughter. No one was checking, no one actually cares, but I do. Date of birth. I remember that date of birth very clearly. A sunny day, a beautiful warm April day, a beautifully healthy daughter.

Who knew how many emotional landmines there would be in a simple form.

Phone number. This one I haven’t learned.

It’s time to switch to my own pen. Not any better than hers, but I need  to steady my writing.

My name, the date, my relationship to myself.

And the form is completed for another year.

She took it back and thanked me. She sent me to my seat to wait for the nurse.

I wanted to explain the challenges of filling in the form. The stories I walked through as she sat at her desk, waiting patiently for the old guy to complete a simple form.

But I’m guessing she wouldn’t understand.

It’s a form, after all. Just a form.

My blood pressure is fine.

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