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Law Enforcement and Patient Privacy Among Survivors of Violence: A Nationwide Mixed-Methods Study

Published:November 28, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jss.2022.11.017

      Abstract

      Introduction

      During the emergent treatment of violently injured patients, law enforcement (LE) officers and health care providers frequently interact. Both have duties to protect patient health, rights, and public health, however, the balance of these duties may feel at odds. The purpose of this study is to assess hospital-based violence intervention program (HVIP) representatives’ experiences with LE officers among survivors of violence and the impact of hospital policies on interactions with LE officers.

      Materials and methods

      A nationwide survey was distributed to the 35 HVIPs that form the Health Alliance for Violence Intervention. Data regarding respondent affiliation, programs, and perceptions of hospital policies outlining LE activity were collected. Follow-up video interviews were open coded and qualitatively analyzed using grounded theory.

      Results

      Respondents from 32 HVIPs completed the survey (91%), and 22 interviews (63%) were conducted. Common themes from interviews were: police-patient interactions; racism, bias, and victims' treatment as suspects; and training and education. Only 39% of respondents knew that policies existed and were familiar with them. Most representatives believed their hospitals’ existing policies were inadequate, ineffective, or biased. Programs that reported good working relationships with LE officers offered insight on how their programs maintain these partnerships and work with LE officers towards a common goal.

      Conclusions

      Unclear or inadequate policies relating to LE activity may jeopardize the health and privacy of violently injured patients. Primary areas identified for improvement include clarifying and revising hospital policies, education of staff and LE officers, and improved communication between health care providers and LE officers to better protect patient rights.

      Keywords

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