The veteran’s name was not included, but there were handwritten recordings showing his heart rate, blood pressure, temperature and mental status. The tweet was later deleted after others complained it violated rules protecting patients’ medical records.
Veterans Affairs press secretary Terrence Hayes confirmed the person who tweeted the image is an administrative officer in the D.C. VA Medical Center’s anesthesia department. The record posted to Twitter, he added, was “for a Veteran who had surgery last week.”
“VA is aware of the incident and takes it very [seriously],” Hayes said. “An investigation is underway and the employee has been removed from all access to Veteran medical records for the foreseeable future.”
Before @CarrieeeeC’s Twitter account was removed, the user claimed in a second tweet that the photo shared on Monday was taken from the Internet — not from VA medical records.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA, protects patients’ medical records and other personal health information from being shared without authorization. A VA pamphlet on privacy states that the department requires mandatory annual training for all employees and contractors to comply with HIPAA and the Privacy Act of 1974.
“Our employees know they must exercise care not to disclose information inadvertently,” the pamphlet states.
The patient undergoing surgery was addressing a problem not uncommon for veterans — especially those with post-traumatic stress disorder. A 2015 study found that male veterans with PTSD were significantly more likely than civilians to report erectile dysfunction or other sexual problems.
“In one study, of male combat Veterans diagnosed with PTSD, for example, 85 percent reported erectile dysfunction, compared with a 22 percent rate among male combat veterans without any mental health diagnosis,” VA noted in 2015. “Another study of 90 male combat Veterans with PTSD found more than 80 percent were experiencing sexual dysfunction.”
Veterans Affairs considers sexual health to be not only a reproductive issue but a quality-of-life issue affecting both mental and physical health, Military.com reported.
Penile implant procedures typically take about an hour, according to the Mayo Clinic. One Austin-based urology institute estimates the surgeries cost between $12,000 and $19,000.