Health Information Management

Is it a HIPAA violation for physicians to take patient charts home or on vacation to complete dictation?

HIM-HIPAA Insider, November 20, 2006

The privacy and security rules do not explicitly prohibit a provider from taking charts off site. Instead, covered entities must establish policies, procedures, and practices that reasonably ensure the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of the information. This means ensuring that

  • the chart is secure at all times (e.g., in transport, when stored off-site)
  • in this case, no one other than the provider has access to the chart
  • processes are in place to access the information in the event of a disaster

It is well within a covered entity's rights to impose security policies, procedures, and practices that prohibit providers from transporting patient charts off site. The covered entity could determine that such practices pose too great a risk to the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of PHI because there are a number of increased risks when transporting data off-site.

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

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