what do I do if a patient asks if everyone in the office is vaccinated

What do I do if a patient asks if everyone in the office is vaccinated?

With over 146.4 million Americans fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of June 16, 2021, one of the recurring questions we are getting at Done Desk is how to respond to patients who ask about whether or not your team has been vaccinated. 

Patients might pose this question over the phone before their scheduled appointment or might ask it to one of your employees during their visit.

This and other OSHA & HIPAA hot-topics are training and live-coaching courses offered by Done Desk. If you have found yourself asking these questions. We're happy to help.

“Not only do they have the legal right, but I think they have an obligation to their own health and safety to ask the question,” said Lawrence Gostin, faculty director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University. “It’s an entirely appropriate and logical question to ask if someone is going to be in very close, personal contact with you: whether they’ve been vaccinated.”

It is not a violation of HIPAA federal privacy law to ask your doctor or dentist or other healthcare workers, as well as people who provide close-contact services — including hairstylists, aestheticians, therapists, and physical trainers whether they are vaccinated.

Read more about HIPAA here.

However, if they share it with you — that’s their choice.

So, yes, patients can ask their doctor, nurse, or medical professional if they’re vaccinated against COVID-19, but they don’t have to tell you.

According to guidance from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), “if employers choose to obtain vaccination information from their employees, employers must keep vaccination information confidential pursuant to the ADA.”

Given the divided views about the coronavirus vaccines, combined with widespread confusion about health and privacy laws, it’s not surprising that many people feel uncertain about how to approach asking. It’s best to contact medical offices and service providers before any appointments to express your concerns, said Robert Gatter, a professor with the Center for Health Law Studies at Saint Louis University’s School of Law. It’s fine to say, for example, that you are vaccinated and wouldn’t feel comfortable coming into close contact with anyone who is unvaccinated or unmasked. Then, he said, you can ask about the safety policies in place, such as vaccination and masking requirements, and how they are being enforced.

Gatter also encouraged employers to inform employees about how they plan to address these questions, and ideally obtain consent from workers to publicly disclose general information about vaccination rates among staff or to make assurances that patrons won’t have contact with unvaccinated individuals.

Done Desk provides comprehensive compliance programs, offered live or on-demand through our customized training system. Using the most up-to-date federal and state laws for the industry, our courses aim at educating both the doctor and their employees on their roles in mitigating risk around the office.

Want to learn more about taking the stress of compliance off of your shoulders?

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Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this information, Done Desk is not responsible for any errors and omissions, or anyone’s interpretations, applications, and changes of regulations described. This ain’t a substitute for review of the applicable regulations and standards, and should not be construed as legal advice, okay? Check with your state board for details on this and all compliance programs for your practice. We're happy to help you implement the appropriate programs using our platform Done Desk.

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