Rules on Notice

September 1, 2005

When do patients have to be given copies of our Notice of Privacy Policies? Is it only at the first office visit? Or would we have to mail it to patients who call to schedule appointments or call for prescription refills?

Question: When do patients have to be given copies of our Notice of Privacy Policies? Is it only at the first office visit? Or would we have to mail it to patients who call to schedule appointments or call for prescription refills?

Answer: Typically, patients should get the notice at their first face-to-face visit. There is no need to ask them to sign it when they make an appointment or request a simple refill.

However, if you are treating the patient for the first time over the telephone (or over the Internet) you should send the patient your notice the same day (ideally) and ask them, perhaps, to rip off a bottom section, sign it, and return it to you. Keep on file a copy of the form you sent; you don't need the patient to send the form back to satisfy the requirement. You only need to have made a good faith effort.

This exact approach is suggested by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in its new guidelines on HIPAA: www.hhs.gov/ocr/hipaa/privacy.html.