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Q: Is it considered a HIPAA violation for facilities and clinics to keep patient charts outside of exam rooms or at a patient’s bedside? Most providers prefer to have the charts handy to review just before seeing the patient; however, I am unsure of whether this would be an incidental disclosure, as anyone walking by could access the chart.
A: This practice is acceptable if you take steps to limit the amount of information available and limit those who have access. For example, a bedside chart should contain minimal information needed for that day’s care, such as an intake/output record, medication administration record, and nurses’ notes. The patient’s entire record should not be kept at the bedside for family members and visitors to access.
If charts are kept outside exam rooms, turn the patient identification toward the wall so patients and family members cannot read the names. Have a staff member walk patients and family members back to exam rooms so they cannot stop to look at the records.
Editor’s note: Mary Brandt, MBA, RHIA, CHE, CHPS, answered this question for HCPro’s Briefings on HIPAA .  This information does not constitute legal advice. Consult legal counsel for answers to specific privacy and security questions.