Health Information Management

HIPAA Q&A: You’ve got questions. We’ve got answers!

HIM-HIPAA Insider, February 2, 2015

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Submit your HIPAA questions to Editor Jaclyn Fitzgerald at and we will work with our experts to provide you with the information you need.

Q: I went to the dentist for a crown. A computer screen in the treatment room showed all of the day's appointments for the dentists and hygienists. The screen showed patient names, phone numbers, and procedures. It was clearly visible and the dentist and hygienist left me alone with that information twice. Does this constitute a HIPAA breach?
A: This is incidental disclosure, which covered entities are required to mitigate. The best practice is to use initials or partial names on the calendar, or at least reconfigure the computer so patients and others without a need to know can't see the information. Another option would be to purchase a privacy screen to fit over the monitor so only those directly in front of it can access or view information.
I suggest you bring this issue up with your dentist or his or her office manager. It's possible they may not be as familiar with mitigating incidental ­disclosures are you are, and they should welcome your thoughts.
Editor’s note: Chris Simons, MS, RHIA, director of health information and privacy officer at Cheshire Medical Center/Dartmouth-Hitchcock in Keene, New Hampshire, answered this question for HCPro’s Medical Records Briefing newsletter. This information does not constitute legal advice. Consult legal counsel for answers to specific privacy and security questions.

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