Professionalism and HIPAA

From DentistryIQ:

No one wants to look at their mistakes. But even when confronted about their mistakes, many medical and dental staff don’t think they’ve breached any privacy rules. Then they repeat the behavior. This is why you need to stop and make a conscious effort to pay attention to what you’re doing and how you’re handling patients. This is a common problem, and many practices deny it. But patients definitely hear and see things.

Source: This might surprise you about HIPAA and your dental practice – DentistryIQ

The author of the linked article makes some good points about patient confidentiality and professionalism. However the experience she writes about does not really have anything to do with HIPAA. She recounts an experience at a surgeons office in which she overheard patients and staff discussing procedures. This is inappropriate and should be avoided but does not represent a HIPAA violation.

HIPAA has to do with records and the transfer of information. HIPAA is concerned about data breaches, or medical plans selling patient data. The HIPAA police do not care if you mention a patient by name in the reception room. They do care if you loose your data to a computer thief.

Having said that, good protocol and professionalism requires that dentists and staff members respect patient privacy and refrain from speaking  in such a way that others can hear conversations regarding treatment or diagnosis. And of course no one should ever discuss a patient with anyone outside the office.

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