Updating Friends Address in Patient File

by Anonymous

If you know the address of a friend which is one of the patient files you are updating or trying to collect should you enter the address?


Should you update a patients file if they are your friend and you know their new address since they have moved?


Response:

My first inclination is to say no - you shouldn't update your friends address. Because you know the persons new address through a personal connection, I wouldn't feel comfortable updating unless it was given with the understanding that the patients records would be updated.

With regard to the HIPAA privacy laws, they do consider a patient's address to be individually identifiable health information that is protected. But it's not like you are using this info to release or disclose it to others parties - which is what the rule is intended to protect against - disclosing a patient's information without their consent. But when your friend disclosed their new address, he or she probably didn’t do so thinking you would update it for the purpose of collections.

The fact that you feel uncomfortable about it, that's also probably a good enough reason not to update the address. The likelihood that you would get in any kind of trouble over it - but you would be betraying the trust of your friend and that could be difficult to deal with.

However if this new address is available through other public means - like White Page - then I don't see a reason you could not update the patient's address. Your intent is not to disclose but to send the patient correspondence on their account - bill for services provided.

Another thought - if you felt comfortable with it - is to ask your friend if they mind if you update their address in their patient files.

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