I dashed into Walgreens last week to buy some unmentionable items ‘for a friend.’ On my way to the checkout, I cruised through the seasonal aisle and snatched two Paw Patrol Easter buckets for my grandsons.
As the perky cashier checked my items she piled my remedies for piles into the Paw Patrol buckets to save plastic bags. I was in a rush to extinguish a fire and didn’t think anything of it.
She commented, “Are these for the kids?” Assuming she meant the buckets, I replied, “Yes.”
Then she did the unimaginable. She laughed and bellowed, “That’s hysterical! My mother did that to my brother one year for Easter. She put a bunch of hemorrhoid treatments in his basket when he asked for a drum set.”
Okay, I’m no prude but do you think I wanted the entire store to know I was buying hemorrhoidal products? And what kind of sadistic grandmother would place these items in an Easter basket for innocent boys? Youngsters whose bodies possess perfect orifices with the exception of an occasional foul mouth when they repeat a bad word they heard at Grandma’s? (In my defense, I had to have a skin graft after the Lego was extracted from my foot.)
HIPAA laws are strict
This traumatic experience brought to mind HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) that has shut the traps of health care workers to the point where we can’t even admit an individual exists for fear of donning an orange jump suit.
Taken to its extreme my husband could call my doctor’s office to ask what time my appointment was and the staff would respond with this broken record. “We cannot confirm or deny that Molly is a real person.” He could beg them to Google my name, review my Facebook profile, or check police beat but they would still insist they couldn’t tell him anything without a release of information, no matter how innocuous the question.
Is it time to hold clerks and baggers to the same standards as healthcare workers?
Do you remember the day when the over-the-counter medication aisle consisted of Bayer aspirin, Tylenol, Tums, and Phillips’ Milk of Magnesia? But now when pharmaceutical companies get bored with a drug that used to be available by prescription only they release it into the wild.
This gives us the right to buy drugs without any subsidy from our insurance company and the freedom to soothe everything from dry, itchy eyes to raging fungal infections. I foresee the day when we can buy a no-longer-profitable chemotherapy drug to treat that suspicious mole we’ve been self-monitoring.
Breaches of confidentiality
So you can see why it is important to restrain store employees who now have knowledge of our confidential medical issues. Here’s an imaginary conversation that could occur unless we act quickly to expand HIPAA’s reach.
Bagger (whose browsing history is heavy on Web MD holds up Monistat vaginal cream): “Itchy, huh? Did you buy some yogurt too? I read that helps restore the balance between bacteria and yeast in your body.”
Me: “No I didn’t buy any yogurt.”
Bagger: “Were you on antibiotics? That makes you more susceptible to this sort of infection.”
Me: “Oh my. I forgot to get super glue. Could you please get some for me?”
As the prescriptive bagger jogs to the office supply aisle I roar, “And apply it to your lips!”
Have you had clerks and baggers comment on your medical purchases? If you haven’t, I predict it is only a matter of time until some chatterbox lets your maladies out of the shopping bag.