[ Friday, February 29, 2008 ]


A question from the audience:

I want to know if it is against HIPAA to call a patient in the waiting
room by his/her last name? I thought I heard this before, but I can't find it
written anywhere.

No, it's not a HIPAA violation to call out a patient's name in a waiting room,
unless the patient's name is "Fire" the the waiting room is crowded.
Actually, HIPAA requires that physician practices take reasonable steps to
prevent the unintentional disclosure of protected health information, including
patient names. As part of this obligation, it might be a good idea for a physician practice NOT call out patient names in the waiting room. But the question is, what is reasonable? Calling out names does allow waiting room patients to identify each other. But the fact that other patients in the waiting room can see everyone else's face means they might be able to identify them; should the practice hand out Halloween masks to help the waiting patients maintain their anonymity? And if they don't use names, how will the staff let patients know their appointed time has come? Should they hand out numbers like at the deli counter? "Now serving number 18." Maybe they should hand out pagers, like at TGI Fridays, so you'll know the doctor is ready to see you, just like you'd know your table is ready.

There's no rule that you can't call out names. If there's a reasonable alternative, a practice should adopt it. But it just depends on what is reasonable.

Jeff [4:46 PM]

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