Is Your Patient PHI Fully Protected?

by  Kelly Ogle, BSDH, MIOP, CHOP, CMPM
February 19th, 2016

As you probably know, HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. This means that as healthcare professionals, we must hold ourselves accountable when handling patient information. This goes beyond having conversations with unauthorized people about what we see or hear in the office. Unlike OSHA, patients, employees, visitors, employers, etc. can be fined if they break HIPAA laws. A series breach could cost someone up to $1.5 million for one violation. Because of this, steps must be taken to ensure that patient information stays safe while it’s in our possession. Patient information can arrive to us in various forms, including electronic, written and even verbal. Are you and your office taking the necessary precautions for your protected health information (PHI)?

To Ensure Your Compliance:

Whether your office is old or new, concessions can be made to ensure that the office is HIPAA friendly:

1. Always escort patients and visitors from the waiting room and through the clinical area.

2. Keep doors closed at all times between the lobby and the clinical area, as well as when patients are in exam rooms.

3. If nurse's stations are close to patient areas, make phone calls about appointments and test

results elsewhere if you are able to be overheard.

4. Music or television in quite areas can prevent eavesdropping where PHI might be overheard.

5. Install privacy screens on computers that are visible by patients. Be sure to logout or lock your computer if leaving the room.

6. Closed windows are best at check in and check out areas to ensure privacy. If either area is crowded with patients, inform additional patients to have a seat and they will be seen shortly.

Erring on the side of caution is always best when it comes to patient information. A medical office can be a very busy place, but we cannot allow ourselves to be careless. If someone were to complain, it is likely that it will not be the patient that you are speaking with, but the person who accidentally heard the conversation or received your email or fax by accident.

Is Your Patient PHI Fully Protected?. (2016, February 19). Find-A-Code Articles. Retrieved from

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