Physician Practice

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

Physician Practice Insider, July 27, 2016

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

Q: Can I leave a patient a voicemail about an MRI procedure, including the time and date? What should I do if someone else at the patient's home answers the phone? How much info can I leave with the other person, and how can I verify that person's identity and relation to the patient?

A: This is a gray area for many reasons, not the least of which is that by leaving a specific message, you are telling whoever listens to that message where a patient will be and at what time. Many organizations will get written patient permission to leave information on voicemail. Failing that approach, I suggest a conservative one: Leave a message to remind the patient of the appointment and state the date and time, but don't say with whom or where. State that if there are any questions, the patient may call you at a call-back number.

With so many organizations adopting patient portals, this vexing problem may be solved. Portals will send reminders (some even through text messages) about upcoming appointments, and patients can restrict or allow access to others as they wish.

Editor’s note: This question was answered by Chris Simons, MS, RHIA, for HIM Briefings. Simons is the director of health information and privacy officer Maine General Medical Center in Augusta, Maine. Simons is also an HIMB advisory board member. This information does not constitute legal advice. Consult legal counsel for answers to specific privacy and security questions. Email your questions to Associate Editor Nicole Votta at

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