Health Information Management

Q&A: Consent on having family members in the exam room

HIM-HIPAA Insider, July 27, 2009

Q. Must providers obtain a third-party liability form signed by the patient if he or she wishes to have a family member or friend present in the exam room?

Providers may elect to require that the patient sign an authorization allowing family members or friends to be present in the exam room, but HIPAA does not require it. In fact, HIPAA specifically allows family or a friend to be present. Patients have the right to object to disclosures to friends and family, which means they also have the right to request that a friend or family member accompany them during their visit with the provider (considered not objecting to disclosure to friends or family by the patient’s action).

HIPAA does not require more than verbal authorization by the patient. For legal risk reasons, the organization should still note a verbal authorization in the patient’s record.

Editor's note: Chris Apgar, president of Portland, OR-based Apgar & Associates, LLC, answered this question. This is not legal advice. Consult your attorney regarding legal matters.

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