Health Information Management

Q&A: Consider privacy when leaving preadmission voice mail messages

HIM-HIPAA Insider, January 25, 2011

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Q: May a preadmission nurse leave messages (e.g., “This is a reminder that your surgery is tomorrow; please don’t drink or eat anything after midnight.”) on an answering machine or mobile phone voice mail?

A: Yes, as long as the nurse does not specify the type of surgery or the name of the practice.
 
Leaving the name of a specialty practice or the type of surgery, especially on an answering machine, can allow unauthorized individuals access to the patient’s protected health information (PHI). Asking patients beforehand whether it is okay to leave such messages on an answering machine or voice mail is always best (45 CFR 164.502[a][1][i]).
 
Editor’s note: Chris Apgar, CISSP, president of Apgar & Associates, LLC, in Portland, OR, answered this question in the February issue of Briefings on HIPAA.



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