According to HIPAA, what can be placed on the outside of medical file folders?
Medical records must be kept in a consistent and reliable manner that will protect the rights of the patient. The Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act (HIPAA), passed in 1996 and put into effect in 2003 and 2004, guarantees that patients have certain rights regarding their privacy. These patient privacy rights are evident with forms that patients must sign at doctors’ offices, but HIPAA doesn’t only impact who can be told about a patient’s medical situation, it also affects what information is put on file folders. If too much information is placed on the outside of a folder, then any other patient at the same office or clinic can find out private information about a person’s health, and that can be illegal.
The filing folders in a medical office should have only a few things put on the outside. These folders should have the patient name, the patient number (a designated number that helps a patient be identified in a way other than merely the name), and the name of the clinic that the patient is visiting. This basic information should not only keep the records of a patient confidential, but this information on the outside of filing folders should make it impossible to confuse two like-named patients.
Additionally, filing folders may have a red or a fluorescent sticker put on the outside to alert medical staff to allergies that a patient may suffer from. This sticker can help prevent a doctor or nurse from overlooking information that is found inside of a medical file. Even though allergies should be listed in the file in red ink, it is easier to overlook one sheet in a thick file than a red or fluorescent sticker on the outside of a file folder.
The Privacy Rights Clearing House indicates that paper files can be left out on a desk top as long as the label and other writing is turned away from other eyes in the office. When not in use, folders should either be left label side down or put in a chart holder in which names and other information can be turned away from public eyes.
Although it is generally not possible to sue a doctor or nurse under violations of HIPAA laws themselves, most states allow these people to be sued through avenues other than HIPAA. With this potential for litigation, it is important that doctors’ offices and hospitals take great care to treat confidential patient information correctly to ensure that people who do not have the authority to examine patient records do not gain access, even accidentally.
When put into effect for larger medical practices in 2003 and smaller practices in 2004, HIPAA caused a great deal of concern in most medical professionals. Since that time, as HIPAA has become the law of the land, people have become used to the limitations and most have come to appreciate the privacy protections of HIPAA that allow a person’s medical history to remain private if that is their choice. There are still daily activities that must be practiced in order to ensure that HIPAA is followed, but most of these things, such as limiting the information placed on the outside of a patient folder, have become a regular matter of how business is done.