Corporate Compliance

"Wanted" patients

Compliance Monitor, February 16, 2007

Q: Can we notify police when our hospital discharges a patient who is a suspect or has a warrant out for his or her arrest? 

A: HIPAA allows you to disclose limited information to law enforcement officials to help them identify or locate a suspect, fugitive, material witness, or missing person. Because this patient is a suspect, you may notify law enforcement of the date and time of treatment, which could include the date and time of discharge.

To limit the curiosity of other patients and visitors, many hospitals ask law enforcement officials to wait outside the hospital and arrest the patient outside the lobby or in the parking lot, as hospital staff escort him or her out.

Editor's note: Mary Brandt, president of Bellaire, TX-based Brandt & Associates, LLC, for answering this question.

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