We recently got told by our billing people that a patient must sign our Hippa and billing authorization forms even if they are blind or don't speak English. My understanding was that if the patient can't understand what they are signing their signature is invalid. At one place I worked we had the HIPPA form in different languages so the patient could read it and sign. And I also understood that you would have to read the entire document to a blind person before they could sign.
Our billing people say that being blind or having a language barrier is not adequate for being "physically or mentally incapable of signing". I'm pretty sure they are breaking the rules. Anyone have any idea where I can find information that defines being blind or non-english speaking as NOT "physically or mentally incapable", anyone else have similar rules?
Oct 21, '12
You are right. It is a patient's right to know what they are signing and to have the information provided in the language that they can understand, even if it requires an interpreter. I would not feel comfortable about having a patient sign something that they do no know what they are signing. Your facility needs to take another look at the patient bill of rights. I think you need to take this to your Director of Nursing, because I bet she will never agree with what they are doing and if she does then take it to the Administrator and if doesn't change things then report it to the state or if you facility is JACHO certified, report it to them, this needs to be corrected.
Oct 21, '12
You wouldn't have that pt sign a surgical/procedural consent so how can they sign HIPAA/billing forms??? Besides the DON and Administrator, I think Risk Mgt needs to be alerted ASAP. I'd never be responsible for signatures under those circumstances.
Oct 23, '12
Well, I'd hope the blind patient would have someone with them. Aren't those forms usually signed at admission? If so, there should be someone there with the blind pt to read the document to them. Everywhere I've worked had them available in English and Spanish so there wouldn't be a language barrier.
Oct 24, '12
Any facility with any sort of non-English native speakers in the population served must have access to interpretation services. Do NOT use family members, the housekeeping lady, or the chaplain aide. Use a certified medical interpreter.
Nov 5, '12
I would like to see them defend that in court. "You must sign this document that you can't read or understand". Sounds like China. You don't need to find a reference for this, it is simply ridiculous. And how does billing have any authority over anything? (And, having a form in foreign language is not acceptable unless there is the ability for the patient to ask questions or clarify. This must be done by a certified interpreter.)
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