Health Information Management

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

HIM-HIPAA Insider, April 13, 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: Is it permissible under HIPAA to inform callers or visitors of a patient's location in the hospital and condition even though this information is not typically in the facility directory?
A: Yes. Under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, a covered hospital or other covered healthcare provider may maintain in a directory certain information about patients (e.g., patient name, location in the facility, health condition in general terms that does not communicate specific medical information, religious affiliation). The patient must be informed about the information to be included in the directory, and to whom the information may be released. The patient must have the opportunity to restrict the information or to whom it is disclosed, or opt out of the directory. The facility may provide the appropriate directory information—except for religious affiliation—to anyone who asks for the patient by name. Religious affiliation may be disclosed to members of the clergy who are given additional access to directory information under the HIPAA Privacy Rule.
Do not disclose the patient's location in the facility if that would provide information about the patient's diagnosis or treatment. For example, do not tell visitors that a patient is on "7 north" if that is the psychiatric unit.
Editor’s note: Mary D. Brandt, MBA, RHIA, CHE, CHPS, vice president of health information, Central Texas Division, Baylor Scott & White Health in Temple, Texas, answered this question for HCPro’s Briefings on HIPAA newsletter. This information does not constitute legal advice. Consult legal counsel for answers to specific privacy and security questions.

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