Health Information Management

Does HIPAA prohibit us from using patients' Social Security numbers (SSN) as identifiers?

HIM-HIPAA Insider, February 19, 2007

The privacy rule does not prohibit you from using the SSN as a patient identifier, but some state laws limit how you can use it. Consumers are increasingly concerned about identity thef,t and many of them know that their financial records are closely linked to their SSNs. It's a patient's right to refuse to give you his or her SSN.

Your choice is to not accept him or her as a patient or to use other information (e.g., his or her name, address, and date of birth) to help distinguish the patient from others. I routinely decline to disclose my SSN when I fill out new patient forms because I know that the medical practice doesn't really need my SSN to provide treatment.

Editor's note: Mary Brandt, president of Bellaire, TX-based Brandt & Associates, LLC, answered this question. This is not legal advice. Consult your attorney for legal matters.

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