Does HIPAA privacy protection apply to an individual who has no relation to the healthcare field?

For example, my neighbor drops his prescription pill bottle on the sidewalk outside his house. I pick it up and return it. Would me telling someone else about his prescription be a HIPAA violation or just a jerk move?


1 Answer 1


It would merely be a "jerk move".

HIPAA only applies to "covered entities":

  1. Healthcare Providers
  2. Health Plans
  3. Healthcare Clearing Houses (i.e. Paying for your health care)
  4. Business Associates of the Above)

Source: CDC page on HIPAA

  • 4
    Now, let's say you're a doctor in the same situation. Do you have to have a doctor-patient relationship for HIPAA to apply? Or would you be held to a higher standard as a healthcare provider anyway? Commented Jan 8, 2022 at 22:18
  • @AzorAhai-him- A doctor, nurse, pharmacist or medical technician would all fall under "healthcare provider".
    – sharur
    Commented Jan 10, 2022 at 10:49
  • That isn't the question I asked. Commented Jan 10, 2022 at 16:41
  • Obviously, of course, it applies to individuals affiliated with "covered entities" and acting in that capacity.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jan 10, 2022 at 18:47
  • @ohwilleke Talk of being "affiliated" with covered entities is misleading, I think. If "covered entities" were always organisations, instead of people, then I would agree with you, since actions done off the job and unrelated to one's work duties would unambiguously not be acts by any covered entity. But covered entities are not all organisations. Many professionals, such as doctors, individually count as "Health Care Providers" under HIPAA, and ergo they personally are "covered entities". It's not at all obvious to me they are freed from HIPAA obligations in non-work-related contexts.
    – Mark Amery
    Commented Feb 21, 2023 at 16:20

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