Q&A: Sharing physician phone numbers with patients

January 10, 2019
Medicare Web

Q: A patient called my lab asking to speak with her physician, who is also the lab’s director, regarding her results. She was advised that this physician does not work in-house and that we do not have a phone number for him. She persisted and was eventually given a number on the grounds that as a patient, she should be able to speak to her physician. No one told the individual who answered the call and eventually gave the number that it was a special number. The individual who gave out the phone number was given a written warning and told it was a HIPAA violation. Was it?

A: Merely providing the patient with a phone number to call in an effort to contact a physician is not a violation of HIPAA, as this does not disclose any PHI. It may be a violation of lab policy, but it is not a HIPAA violation.


Editor’s note: This question was answered by Chris Apgar, CISSP, president of Apgar & Associates, LLC, in Portland, Oregon. He is also a BOH editorial advisory board member. This information does not constitute legal advice. Consult legal counsel for answers to specific privacy and security questions. Opinions expressed are those of the author and do not represent HCPro or ACDIS. Email your HIPAA questions to Associate Editor Heidi Samuelson at hsamuelson@hcpro.com.

Related Topics: 
Ask the Expert, HIM/HIPAA, HIPAA