How are health care providers supposed to provide the notice to individuals and obtain their written acknowledgement of the notice when the first treatment encounter is over the phone or in some other manner that is not face-to-face?
The HIPAA Privacy Rule is intended to be flexible enough to address the various types of relationships that covered health care providers may have with the individuals they treat, including those treatment situations that are not face-to-face. For example, a health care provider who first treats a patient over the phone satisfies the notice provision requirements of the Privacy Rule by mailing the notice to the individual the same day, if possible. To satisfy the requirement that the provider also make a good faith effort to obtain the individual’s acknowledgment of the notice, the provider may include a tear-off sheet or other document with the notice that requests that the acknowledgment be mailed back to the provider. The health care provider is not in violation of the Rule if the individual chooses not to mail back an acknowledgment; and a file copy of the form sent to the patient would be adequate documentation of the provider’s good faith effort to obtain the acknowledgment.
Where a health care provider’s initial contact with the patient is simply to schedule an appointment or a procedure, the notice provision and acknowledgment requirements may be satisfied at the time the individual arrives at the provider’s facility for his or her appointment.
For service provided electronically, the notice must be sent electronically automatically and contemporaneously in response to the individual’s first request for service. In this situation, an electronic return receipt or other return transmission from the individual is considered a valid written acknowledgment of the notice.