Utah Students Get Around HIPAA Rules and See Medical Operations

Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, students have been prevented from visiting operating rooms to view surgical procedures being performed. This was not an intentional privacy and security measure implemented as part of the HIPAA, rather an unfortunate consequence.

Many moons ago, students were permitted to visit hospitals and see medicine in action which had the dual purpose of giving an in depth knowledge of surgical procedures which cannot – or could not – be gained in the classroom. It also “sorted the men out from the boys” and had the capability to both inspire and repulse. Both reactions are equally valuable, as both can help to ensure that valuable career preparation time is not wasted in high school.

This was the thinking of the Utah State Office of Education, which together with Intermountain Healthcare started up a “Virtual Healthcare Interactive” partnership. The main aim was to keep interest in medicine high for teens; to improve understanding and help students decide whether it was the right career choice for them.

The program allows students to enter the operating room once again – albeit virtually – and see surgeons in action. Video cameras were used to show procedures being performed, with the feed taken from the Granite Technical Institute and the feed broadcast to students throughout the state. This is the 11th year that the program has been run.

The Miracle of Birth Viewed by Potential Medical Students


Approximately 350 high school students were permitted to view procedures on Thursday this week. The medical procedures chosen for the program had huge potential to inspire. Students were treated to seeing the miracle of birth. The first procedure involved a normal vaginal birth, while the second was a caesarean section. In compliance with HIPAA regulations, consent was obtained from the mothers prior to the program being run. Both were willing to give the opportunity to students to view their births and help them gain a better understanding of the delivery process.

Samantha Anorve, a 17-year old student, said “It just looks really painful,” while Kelsy Pitts, who attends the emergency medical technician class, said “It is interesting and fun to learn about anatomy and how to fix things, “according to a report in Deseret News.

Julie Bagley, a health sciences education specialist who works in the Granite School District, pointed out that the important thing that these sessions provide is context. In this case, the operation was particularly special as not only are they two procedures that will probably be performed by a number of the students if they take up careers in medicine; they are procedures that most are likely to go through themselves at some point during their lives.

Bagley also pointed out that having a minor adverse aversion to seeing the procedures performed the first time is not something to be overly concerned about. She said “We tell them that wincing doesn’t mean it isn’t necessarily what you will end up loving someday.”

Author: Steve Alder has many years of experience as a journalist, and comes from a background in market research. He is a specialist on legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA. Steve holds a B.Sc. from the University of Liverpool.