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Would you give a patient’s health information to a stranger?

April 17, 2012

“Today (like many other days), I received faxes from pharmacies with queries about one of my prescriptions or for renewals with no provider name on the message or request (i.e., there is no individual pharmacist or pharmacy technician taking ownership over the message).

“It would be similar to me asking a pharmacist for patient information without identifying who I am. I have no clue who wants this information, and simply using a drug store heading is not appropriate.”

This is just one example of the concern ACP has heard from physicians and pharmacists about anonymous requests for transfers of information. Why is just faxing on pharmacy letterhead not enough?

  1. It wastes time. When the person on the receiving end of the fax needs to confirm details or discuss the situation, they must call the pharmacy and then wait while staff try and identify who sent the fax. This wastes the time of both the caller and your pharmacy staff.
  2. It is not professional. Standard 1 of the Standards of Practice for Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians requires you to work collaboratively with colleagues and not impose conditions that compromise another professional’s judgment. If the fax recipient does not know if you are a custodian (as defined in the Health Information Act), they cannot judge if it is appropriate to release the information. (Learn more about disclosure and the HIA.)

    Code of Ethics Principle 12.2 requires you to maintain professional relationships with colleagues and other health care professionals. Not identifying yourself is not taking responsibility for your actions or decisions, which does not foster the trust or respect required for collaboration.

Moral of the story: Always clearly identify yourself and provide contact information when requesting information from another healthcare professional.