Q&A: Voice mail messages for appointments

April 12, 2018
Medicare Web

Q. I’ve been taught to tell our patients, “We look forward to seeing you on x day at x time with x doctor.” This has always been left on cell phone voice mails or home phones. Is this a HIPAA-compliant practice?

A. Yes, it’s OK to leave appointment reminders as voice mail messages. It used to be a requirement to include the fact you would be leaving appointment reminders on voice mail in your Notice of Privacy Practices, but that requirement went away in 2013 with the finalization of the Omnibus Rule.

It is a good idea to make sure leaving appointment reminders for patients on voice mail is OK with the patient if the doctor or other healthcare practitioner is a specialist. Knowing who the specialist is may let the person listening to the voice mail message know what the patient’s medical condition is. That’s especially true for specialists who deal with sensitive conditions, such as a mental health practitioner or an alcohol and chemical dependency treatment provider.

In some cases, it would be a violation of state law to leave such a message without a patient’s approval where the information is specially protected under state law. In certain circumstances 42 CFR Part 2 applies, and leaving a reminder about an appointment with an alcohol and chemical dependency provider would be prohibited.

Related Topics: 
Ask the Expert, HIM/HIPAA