Confidentiality Between Caregivers & Patients in a Residence Care Home

Updated March 23, 2017

In the health care field, establishing confidentiality is the golden rule -- there are no exceptions. There are several federal and state laws that protect patients in the health care setting, including in residence care homes. A residence care home is similar to a nursing care facility, but generally in a more homelike setting. If you are a caregiver, you should always follow privacy rules or risk job termination or legal enforcement.


HIPAA stands for the health insurance portability and accountability act of 1996. HIPAA is a privacy rule that protects a patient's health care information including diagnosis, medical inquiries, medical testing, patient to doctor information, medical treatment and prescription information. One area of patient charts that is essentially private includes his name, phone number, date of birth, address, and social security number. Health care workers must follow HIPAA rules and regulations closely.

Family Members

There are also strict rules enforced by HIPAA that prohibit family members of patients to receive confidential medical information about a patient. The only way it is acceptable is if there is written or verbal permission from the patient or their durable medical power of attorney (DMPOA). In some cases, spouses who are not listed as a DMPOA are not allowed to inquire about the medical care or health status of their spouse who is a patient. If no DMPOA is legally assigned and the patient is incompetent to make medical desicons, the next of kin is generally able to inquire about the patient's medical condition. Every residence care home has its own rules and regulations in addition to the HIPAA rules.

Patient Charts

Secretaries, nurses, physicians, home health aides, social workers, spiritual care workers and other administrative staff who have access to patient charts need to follow strict confidentiality rules through HIPAA. Patient charts should be locked up at all times when not being used or charted. If patient records are online, they should be password protected and only accessed by personnel who have permission or access. Whoever documents information or changes data should sign and date all patient charts. No one outside of the residence care staff should have access to the charts except for auditing purposes.

Telephone Etiquette

If you are a secretary or caregiver at a residence care home, it is important to abide by proper telephone etiquette when someone inquires about a patient. It is the receptionist's responsibly to use her best judgment if a family member makes an inquiry. If you know that the person calling has permission to discuss or ask if a patient is residing there, you can direct them to a member in the medical staff. Non-medical personnel should never discuss patient information with anyone over the telephone. Never discuss confidential patient information on the phone, because people coming in and out of the office could overhear your conversation.

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