I belong to a group of three internists who have separate outpatient clinics attached to the hospital in the same building. When I am on call for a colleague, can I take a patient’s chart from that physician’s clinic out of the clinic wing of the building to a patient’s room in the inpatient hospital units? Is this a violation of the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)?
—Kashif Memon, MD, Vernal, Utah

HIPAA provides a federal standard to protect personal health information (PHI). It was written to avoid barriers to appropriate health care. Ready access to PHI is crucial to good health care, so HIPAA Privacy Rules expressly allow covered entities to disclose PHI for necessary treatment. As a covering clinician, you would be allowed to access and use the records of a colleague’s patient whom you are treating. I would suggest that the records remain securely in your possession until they are returned to your colleague’s office.
—John Davenport, MD, JD, family physician/legal consultant, Irvine, Calif. (119-18)