Cell phone use in the workplace causing distrust

By Suze Shaffer

March 15, 2020

We all have been annoyed at one time or another when we arrive at a counter or a place of business and the person is on their cell phone and we are ignored. Of course, that is not very good customer service. When you work in healthcare, it goes to an all new level. HIPAA doesn’t restrict the use of cell phones, except how they are secured and protected. However, this is not what we are discussing here today.

We are hearing about complaints from patients accusing employees of taking pictures of their information. This particular situation the employee was accused of taking pictures of the computer screen and the patient told the doctor. This afforded the doctor the opportunity to address the situation and avoid a formal complaint to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). We recommend employees leaving their cell phones out of sight of patients unless the phone is used for business purposes within the practice. Some organizations are even adding cell phone lockers. I can remember before we had cell phones, we actually gave out our work number to anyone who needed to get in contact with us! Now you know how old I really am! Joking aside, this is a very serious matter that could cause the OCR to open an investigation. Keep in mind, when you are being investigated by the OCR, they do not “just” investigate “that” situation. They look at your overall compliance plan. Where are your policies? What were your procedures before, during, and after the occurrence. What have you done to prevent the same situation from happening again? Plus, many more items they take into consideration when conducting an investigation.

The next area of concern with cell phones are with patients. We have long been a proponent of using privacy screens on computers. Now, even if the screen is across the room, we are pushing our clients to add the screens. Patients now have their phones out while making new appointments, they could potentially take pictures of computer screens across the room and enlarge them. Some of you may be thinking that we worry too much and all this security is driving you crazy. It only takes ONE mistake or ONE complaint to turn your life into a rollercoaster. Prevention is the best medicine!

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