Far too often HIPAA is used as a barrier for appropriate PHI sharing. However, when a patient wants to create a barrier to sharing in the form of a restricted communication, it must be followed. A patient might request a restriction for any number of reasons. Often it is in response to a threatening family member or a sensitive diagnosis. Regardless of the reason, covered entities must have a process for implementing the restriction across the entire organization.

A patient may tell a nurse practitioner to not send mail to their house, or only contact them at a specific telephone number.  The act of telling that one staff member is tantamount to telling everyone within the organization, therefore everyone who may send communications to the patient needs to be made aware.  Often this is done through a note in the EHR, or some type of flag in the patient’s record.  If they do not want to be contacted at a certain phone number or e-mail address, that information can simply be removed.  If you know you have to follow up by some method of communication after the visit, it might be a good habit to simply ask the patient if it is okay to contact them at a certain number, or if they have a preferred contact method.

Implementing a patient’s request for restricted communication is a simple HIPAA requirement to implement, which can promote patient safety and increase trust in the care you provide.