Health Information Management

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

HIM-HIPAA Insider, July 7, 2014

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Submit your HIPAA questions to Editor Jaclyn Fitzgerald at and we will work with our experts to provide you with the information you need.

Q: I work in a medical records office and consider myself familiar with HIPAA rules and regulations. I recently tried to schedule an appointment for my fiancé at his dentist's office, which I have done in the past. However, I was told on this occasion that I am not permitted to schedule the appointment because my fiancé did not authorize me to do so on HIPAA disclosure documents. I thought this was strange, so I requested that the office manager call me and I also requested a copy of the dental office's notice of privacy practices (NPP). The practice refused to give me its NPP, and I have been waiting for more than a week for a return call. Does HIPAA dictate who can schedule a patient's appointment? If so, should an NPP include this information? If this is part of a practice's NPP, I wonder whether a breach occurred when I scheduled an appointment for my fiancé in the past.
A: There are a couple of issues here. First, the office should certainly provide you with a copy of its NPP. In fact, it is required to post it on its website if it has one, and at minimum on the wall at the practice.
HIPAA addresses disclosure of information. You can make an appointment for your fiancé without office staff needing to reveal any information about him to you and, therefore, this is acceptable under HIPAA. You are not bound by HIPAA as an individual and may share whatever information requested by the practice to make and confirm the appointment.
It may be that staff at the practice refused to make the appointment because they are confused or that they are concerned about no shows. However, there is no reason to refuse your request to make an appointment for your fiancé—unless, of course, he has requested this restriction.
Editor’s note: Chris Simons, MS, RHIA, director of HIM and privacy officer at Cheshire Medical Center/Dartmouth-Hitchcock in Keene, New Hampshire, answered this question for HCPro’s Medical Records Briefing newsletter.

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