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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    October 01, 2016


    'Release' of Confidential Health Care Records

    Health Care Records

    In "Patient Loses Appeal on Confidential Health Records, Access Not a 'Release'" (WisBar News, Aug. 31, 2016), State Bar legal writer Joe Forward said a state appeals court has clarified what it means to "release" confidential health care records in violation of state law. The court rejected a patient's claim that a health care provider's employees violated the law when accessing his medical records.

    Daniel Wall sued Gunderson Lutheran Health System and two of its employees, arguing the employees accessed his confidential health records without informed consent and Gunderson blocked and hindered his investigation of the alleged unauthorized access. But in Wall v. Pahl, 2015AP1230 (Aug. 30, 2016), the court of appeals affirmed the Trempealeau County Circuit Court decision, concluding that Wall's allegations, even if true, did not violate the state law that restricts the release of patient health care records. The appeals court clarified that release does not mean "access" by employees within a patient's health care provider.

    Reader Response: Interesting not for the ultimate result, but for the fact that the patient used the "audit trail" to find this out. In all electronic medical record facilities, each and every time anyone accesses the chart of a patient the computer software logs date, time, who accessed the chart, and what entries were made. In all personal injury cases, med mal, and otherwise, it is important to request the "unedited audit trail" – health care providers attempt to send you only what they define as the "legal medical record," but don't buy it. Oftentimes there is critical info in the audit trail that is missing from the actual record.

    Timothy Knurr
    Gruber Law Offices LLC, Milwaukee

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    Planning International Travel?

    The Visa Waiver Program is a U.S. government program that allows citizens of specific countries to travel to the United States for tourism, business, or while in transit, for up to 90 days without having to obtain a visa. In "Changes to U.S. Visa Waiver Program Will Affect Some International Travels" (InsideTrack, Sept. 7, 2016), Benjamin T. Kurten discussed changes to the program as of April 21, 2016, that may affect lawyers and their clients. Kurten wrote, "Because of recent security threats and acts of violence within the United States, two significant changes to the VWP have occurred."

    Reader Response: Great article! Thank you! My understanding of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is that the European countries are not reciprocating the new U.S. restrictions. Therefore, a U.S. citizen may travel to Iran, Iraq, Sudan (but not including South Sudan), Libya, Somalia, Yemen, or Syria, and still use the VWP to enter the 38 countries of the program. Consequently, the changes do not affect U.S. citizens. Please correct me if I'm mistaken.

    Shabnam Lotfi
    Lotfi Legal LLC, Madison

    John Skilton: One of Wisconsin's Great Lawyers

    John Skilton

    Litigation attorney John Skilton of Madison is a co-recipient of the Charles L. Goldberg Distinguished Service Award from the Wisconsin Law Foundation. In "The Essence of Being a Lawyer: John Skilton Receives Distinguished Service Award," State Bar communications writer Shannon Green wrote about Skilton's career and his philosophy about what it means to be a lawyer (InsideTrack, Sept. 7, 2016).

    Reader Response: It's great to see John recognized for his contributions to the legal profession. He is one of Wisconsin's great lawyers, a statesperson, and a wonderful mentor to generations of attorneys, including this prosecutor.

    Peter M. Tempelis
    Wisconsin Department of Justice, Madison

    As a Lawyer, Your Words Matter

    Public Speaking

    In "The New Rules on Public Speaking: 6 Tips for Success" (InsideTrack , Aug. 17, 2016), State Bar legal writer Joe Forward covered a presentation by Deb Sofield, who teaches public speaking at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Sofield's talk at the State Bar's Annual Meeting and Conference in June explored the new rules for public speaking, including these: lighten up; have your "glad to be here line"; use your credentials; know your audience and take care of them; powerful people take up space; and if it's not funny, don't use it.

    Reader Response: Thank you for the well-written, informative article on public speaking. As a new attorney, I appreciated your advice!

    Lindsey M. Anderson
    DeWitt, Ross & Stevens S.C., Brookfield

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