Corporate Compliance

Q&A: Leaving voice mail messages

Compliance Monitor, May 12, 2010

Q: May ambulatory surgery center (ASC) staff members leave preoperative messages on patients’ voice mail or answering machines that include:

  • The caller’s first name
  • The name of the ASC
  • Instructions to call a certain number

Messages neither identify the procedure nor provide other information about the patient. I believe this practice is acceptable unless patients have specifically requested that we not do this (e.g., cosmetic cases).

What information concerning a scheduled procedure (e.g., arrival time, medication reminder, what to bring) may we leave on a patient’s voice mail or answering machine? What information may we leave in a post-procedure follow-up message?

A: You are correct. The practice you describe is acceptable because the information in the message is limited to the minimum necessary. Voice mail messages left for patients should not reveal anything about the patient’s diagnosis or surgical procedure. They may convey practical information, such as expected arrival time and medications.

Follow-up messages should be general, such as, “Mr. Smith, this is Sally at XYZ Surgery Center. I wanted to see how you’re doing after your procedure. Please call me back at 999-9999.”

Mary D. Brandt, MBA, RHIA, CHE, CHPS answered this question in the May 2010 issue of the HCPro newsletter Briefings on HIPAA. For more information about this newsletter visit the HCMarketplace.

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