“He said, ‘I’m sick of hearing your staffers talk about who’s dating whom, or who got drunk as a skunk last weekend. ’” Indiscriminate tongue wagging — even seemingly harmless statements — can affect everything from staff morale to patient care.
Emails containing PHI may also be in violation of HIPAA depending on the circumstances in which they are sent and received.
“I was sitting in a dentist’s office when suddenly a patient storms out of an exam room and confronts the dentist in the hallway,” says Kristin Baird a practice consultant at Baird Consulting in Wisconsin and The Beryl Institute.
Consider the patient who is seeking psychiatric care.
“If Jane Doe has to leave her name displayed on a sign-in sheet at a psychiatrist’s office, think of the potential privacy issues,” says Shari Mc Cartney, a lawyer specializing in healthcare compliance at Tripp Scott in Ft. Understanding consequences HIPAA rules are a major reason more practices are now fighting gossip.
When gossip is rampant, she says, “it’s hard [for staff] to deliver their best care — and that’s not what already vulnerable patients need from a health team.” Methods of control How do you stem these problems?
“All our supervisors are trained in a warning system I established.
So, for example, it is okay to send messages by text provided that the content of the message does not include “personal identifiers”.
It is okay for a doctor to send text messages to a patient, provided that the message complies with the “minimum necessary standard”.
“You’re discussing that colonoscopy in full earshot of the waiting room and the next thing you know, you’ve broken confidentiality,” says Mary Piece Brosmer, who provides practice cultural transformation through Consulting for a Change in Cincinnati, Ohio.