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Hospital protects patient privacy

December 28, 2001

Hospital protects patient privacy



By TARA REILLY
tarar@herald-mail.com


A new policy modeled after federal regulations designed to protect patient confidentiality goes into effect at Washington County Hospital on Jan. 1.

Hospital officials say patients admitted in the new year will be issued a four-digit code that will allow certain family members or friends to access information about the patient. The policy will not apply for those admitted before Jan. 1.

Kelly Redmond, the hospital's public relations coordinator, said patients will be encouraged to give the code to one "contact person" who can notify others of their condition.

People who call the hospital with questions about a patient but do not have the code will be given the name of the contact person. It will then be up to the caller to get in touch with the contact person for the information, Redmond said.

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She said the policy is designed to protect the privacy of patients.

"It keeps us from giving out information to someone who is not authorized to have it," Redmond said.

She also said by having one contact person calling for conditions about patients will decrease the amount of time nurses spend on the phone, allowing more time for bedside care.

"Instead of 10 people calling in, she or he is doing that once," Redmond said.

The policy was created in response to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.

"Our policy really hasn't changed as to how much information we give out," said Lori Dellinger, a medical/surgery clinical manager. "It's just who we give it out to."

Hospital officials say members of the media who call seeking patient conditions will not need a code to access information.

The hospital tried out the program on Dellinger's floor in August. She said people questioned the policy at first, but then had positive responses once they found out why it was in place.

"Afterward, the families' and patients' responses were very positive," Dellinger said. "They liked the idea that Joe Public couldn't just call in and get information about them."

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