Is hallway patient care a HIPAA violation?


f you've gone to the emergency room at Baptist Saint Anthony's Hospital recently, you've probably noticed patients being seen in the hallways by doctors.

But the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, should protect that information.

HIPAA provides the guidelines medical professionals use to protect your private medical history and the things you'd only share with your doctor.

Sitting in a hallway where others can hear all those details might seem uncomfortable. But is it a HIPAA violation? BSA says no.

"HIPAA does say that the use of wards, semi-private rooms, and hall beds are acceptable that is what the facility needs to use to take care of patients effectively," said Mary Barlow, BSA Spokeswoman.

Those hall bed, Barlow says, are for non-critical or emergency patients, for anything from a sore throat to a rash, someone who needs an xray, or anyone who doesn't need an exam.

She says they cut a patient's wait time from a few hours down to about one hour.

"In our ER when it gets very very full and all of the rooms are filled, and we have about 25 private rooms down in our ER and people are waiting to still seek treatment if they are here and they're not in an emergency situation they can be placed in what we call a hall bed. So, there is expectation of privacy in hospitals, but they are certain circumstances where that flat out can not happen or the patient will have to wait out in the waiting room for a very long time," said Barlow.

But at the same time, she says, as the provider, BSA must be aware of the public setting.

"HIPAA does say that we as healthcare providers should take reasonably precautions and try to speak in a low voice".

Barlow says if patients feel uncomfortable being seen by a doctor in a hallway, they are always welcome to wait for a room.

But she says they have to be aware, their wait could turn into hours.