Handling Patient Charts Under HIPAA

Q: A clinic customarily places patient charts in the plastic box outside an exam room. Clinical staff do not want the record left unattended with the patient, and physicians want the record close by for fast review right before they walk into the exam room. Does the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule allow this practice?

A: Yes, the HIPAA Privacy Rule permits this practice as long as the clinic takes reasonable and appropriate measures, tailored to its circumstances, to protect the patient's privacy. For example, the clinic could:

  • Limit access to certain areas,
  • Ensure the area is supervised,
  • Escort nonemployees in the area, or
  • Place the patient chart in the box with the front cover facing the wall.

For valuable information about HIPAA, vsit TMA’s online HIPAA Resource Center as well as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Information Privacy Web site. 

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