Physician Practice

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

Physician Practice Insider, January 26, 2016

Submit your HIPAA questions to Associate Editor Nicole Votta at nvotta@hcpro.com and we will work with our experts to provide you with the information you need.

Q: My office manager at an outpatient practice revealed to two employees that I’m a recovering alcoholic. I’m a midlevel practitioner and a patient of one of the physicians in the practice. Is this a HIPAA violation?

A: It may be a HIPAA violation because you are a patient of the practice. If the office manager accessed your medical record or learned of your condition during a conversation with your physician, it would be a violation of the HIPAA Privacy Rule. On the other hand, if the office manager disclosed information about your medical condition and it did not relate to treatment at the clinic (say, the information came from a job interview with you or was documented in your personnel file), it would not be a HIPAA violation because the information was available to your office manager acting as the employer. It may still be a violation of state law or other federal law, but it would not be a HIPAA violation.

Editor’s note: Chris Apgar CISSP, president of Apgar and Associates in Portland, Oregon, 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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