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?Answer: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.