Was this a HIPAA violation?

  1. A friend/family member came to the ER window and asks to go visit pt xxxx. I looked on the tracker board and saw the pts name but that the room was showing 'dirty bed' so was no longer in that room. I relayed that to the friend/family. They said they had spoke to nurse xxxx, used her name, who had been caring for this pt. I called nurse xxxx and told her family/friend was there to visit. She told me the pt had been transferred and where to. So I told the friend/family where the pt had been transferred to. This was a psych pt I learned. Did I commit a HIPAA violation by telling the friend/family where the pt was transferred to?

    Any answers will be appreciated. I have been so worried over this....
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    About anitahd

    Joined: May '06; Posts: 5
    ER staff
    Specialty: 16 year(s) of experience in ER


  3. by   Esme12
    Well.....this is a sticky one depending on who was asking and your states protection laws regarding psychiatric records/privacy. I probably would have tried to find out more information about the person asking and what their relationship to the patient was and the consult with the charge nurse/supervisor as to how to proceed. I don't think it's a violation per se, but I would be more careful about psych information.

    If it was a regular transfer to another hospital,like to children's or a tertiary facility, it is not a HIPAA violation to tell them where the patient has gone but not what they were transferred for....like they've been transferred to have a cath.

    I want to say thank you for spelling HIPAA correctly....you'd be surprised how many who don't...
    Last edit by Esme12 on May 25, '12 : Reason: sp
  4. by   anitahd
    Thank you for answering. There were two people asking to see the pt. I did ask if they were related and one said friend the other said family. The hospital the pt was transferred to is a psych facility. I don't know if the visitors know that or not. I don't even know if they knew why the pt was in the ER. I do know they had to have spoken with the pts nurse because they knew her name. They asked for directions but I didn't know. If this had been a medical pt I don't think I would be so worried about it, but because it was a psych pt I am concerned.
  5. by   Double-Helix
    Does the HIPAA Privacy Rule permit a hospital to inform callers or visitors of a patient

    Does the HIPAA Privacy Rule permit a hospital to inform callers or visitors of a patient’s location and general condition in the emergency room, even if the patient’s information would not normally be included in the main hospital directory of admitted patients?


    Yes. The Privacy Rule permits covered entities to maintain more than one type of patient directory, and to maintain multiple versions of them, provided that the other requirements at 45 CFR 164.510(a) also are followed. For instance, emergency rooms that maintain directory information, even though separate from, or in a form different than, the hospital directory of admitted patients, may still disclose the information consistent with the requirements of the Privacy Rule.

    This is the FAQ that I found on the HIPAA website that most closely matches your situation. It appears, based on this response, that you would be able to tell the visitor where the patient has gone, but the wording does suggest that the patient is still inside the facility at the time the information is being shared.

    Even in searching the HIPAA website, I couldn't find any information that specifically related to whether you are allowed to inform visitors or callers of the location of a patient if they have been transferred to another facility. Certainly if the visitor were a guardian or POA, it would be acceptable. But nothing addressed friends and family who just want to visit.

    Since it's not specifically addressed, this time I wouldn't worry about it. However, for the future, you might just want to tell visitors that the patient is "no longer a patient at the facility," and leave it at that. That way you can avoid these internal conflicts.
  6. by   anitahd
    Thank you so much for looking this up. I tried and couldn't find any info on it. And yes from now on I will not ever tell someone where a pt has gone to. I will leave that up to a charge nurse. Thanks again.