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What's With HIPPA?


Does HIPAA directly affect your dispatch agency? At the risk of perpetuating the, "why can't you just give me a straight answer" lawyer stereotype, the answer is simply, "it depends!" First, let us address three of the top HIPAA/dispatch myths that have arisen.



Myth No. 1:
Dispatch centers can't give out any identifiable information over the radio.

HIPAA doesn't prevent dispatch centers from communicating all information necessary for EMS response and treatment to EMS agencies. While patient names shouldn't be given out unless truly necessary, a dispatch center may transmit any information necessary to facilitate the EMS treatment of a patient.

Myth No. 2:
Ambulance services are violating HIPAA if they give patient information to the hospital over the radio.

HIPAA permits any and all treatment-related disclosures of patient information between health care providers. Ambulances are freely permitted to give patient information to hospitals over the radio for treatment purposes.

Myth No. 3:
Dispatch centers must convert all communications equipment to digital or institute new privacy technologies so that people with scanners can no longer hear radio dispatches.

HIPAA does not prohibit dispatch centers from communicating with ambulance services, which is necessary for response and patient treatment, even though everyone in "scannerland" can listen in! These are called "incidental disclosures" under HIPAA, meaning they are legitimate disclosures with unavoidable side-effects, and are permissible under HIPAA.

SOURCE:  HIPAA: The Intersection of Patient Privacy with Emergency Dispatch 


By Douglas M. Wolfberg, Stephen R. Wirth, & Cindy R. Staffelbach, Esquires - thanks to NAED