Corporate Compliance

Q&A: Overhead paging

Compliance Monitor, December 24, 2008

Q: Is overhead paging of a patient by name back to a clinic or hospital area a HIPAA violation?

A: It depends on whether the name of the clinic or area would reveal anything about the patient’s condition. Paging "John Jones to report to the HIV clinic" would obviously violate his privacy. Paging him to the medicine clinic would reveal much less information. A better approach would be to ask the patient to dial a specific extension for more information, such as, "John Jones, please call extension 2500."

Most healthcare organizations significantly limit the use of overhead paging to protect patient privacy and minimize disruptions to others. Some organizations give patients flashing pagers similar to those used in restaurants to notify them when to return to treatment areas.

This question was answered by Mary D. Brandt, MBA, RHIA, CHE, CHPS, in the January issue of the HCPro newsletter Briefings of HIPPA. For more information about this newsletter visit the HCMarketplace.

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