Health Information Management

Q&A: Therapy patients that receive phone calls during appointments

HIM-HIPAA Insider, November 29, 2011

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Q: I need advice for two scenarios in our small outpatient physical therapy clinic. First, what is the appropriate response when a patient’s spouse calls and asks to speak to the patient while he or she is in therapy? Also, what is the appropriate response when a patient asks when his friend or neighbor or family member has an appointment? This is typically related to transportation issues.

A. If a spouse calls for a patient, say “Let me check” and put the caller on hold. Then check with the patient to see whether he or she wants to talk with the caller. You may need to take a message if the patient is unable to take the call but wants to return it. If the patient does not want to talk with the caller and does not want the caller to know he or she is in therapy, tell the caller, “I’m sorry, I’m not able to help you. You may want to try reaching him (or her) by cell phone.”

In the second situation, I recommend saying, “I’m unable to give you that information. Would you like to check with Mr. Jones before scheduling your next appointment?”

Editor’s note: Mary D. Brandt, MBA, RHIA, CHE, CHPS, vice president of HIM at Scott & White Healthcare in Temple, TX, answered these questions. Brandt is a nationally recognized expert on patient privacy, information security, and regulatory compliance, and her publications provided some of the basis for HIPAA’s privacy regulations.
 



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