NEW HIPAA RULE MANDATES DISGUISES TO PROTECT PATIENT PRIVACY
By Mark Salamon, August 2, 2020
Legislators have introduced several amendments to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to place additional safeguards on patient privacy. The most notable of these will be a requirement that healthcare facilities provide disguises free of charge to all patients at intake.
Feedback from trial runs has been mixed. Facility managers have balked at the cost, but legislators insist that the minimum acceptable disguise – plastic glasses with fake nose and mustache – should be within the means of most institutions. They also point to an exception that allows facilities that meet certain criteria to use less expensive options such as paper bags with eye-holes cut into them.
An additional measure requires that patients be given a pseudonym of their choosing to be used when calling them back to the treatment area. Because this is cost-neutral, facilities have embraced this practice, and some have taken to using famous people’s names in an effort to cheer up disgruntled patients and lighten the mood.
Patients will still be required to sign the HIPAA information forms, which have been updated to include tips for patients who are interested in taking further measures to protect their privacy, such as speaking in a foreign accent and taking Uber so no one recognizes their car.
Patients, on the whole, have been receptive. The most enthusiastic responses came from those in physical therapy clinics, where open-space layouts make protecting privacy a real challenge. “I used to dread walking back to that crowded gym. It seemed like everyone I knew was there, and people just can’t mind their own business,” said a patient who identified herself only as Meryl Streep.
Meryl, who perfected her thick Scottish brogue in a single weekend by binge-watching five seasons of “Outlander,” was one of several patients we interviewed who had willingly paid an extra fee to wear the paper bag and the fake nose and mustache.