Keep it quiet -- a weekly HIPAA message

January 28, 2003

picture disc.HIPAA, the "Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996," provides federal protection of patient health information. You will be receiving weekly messages to help you understand the topic and how it impacts your job. Today's HIPAA message tells you what to do if you overhear co-workers loudly discussing confidential information.

Question:
What should you do if you overhear co-workers loudly discussing confidential information in public areas where patients and visitors can hear them?

Answer:
Discreetly remind them that others are present who do not have a need to know and request that they conduct their conversations in a more private setting. Among the responses one could make:

  • "Would you like to find a conference room for your discussion?"
  • "That is confidential information…please hold your conversation until later;" or
  • "That is confidential information, please be discreet."

Although this may be difficult at first, it gets easier with practice!

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If you're a manager, please ensure all of your employees are informed of the contents of these messages and how it applies to your work area. Some ways of sharing the information include discussions during staff meetings, printing and posting this message or asking your employees if they have any further questions.