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Patient Privacy And Journal Records

Strict privacy laws coupled with increasing medical identity theft mean that healthcare professionals today must take workplace privacy policies seriously. For healthcare Notaries, these policies need to address what information should be included in a journal.

The federal HIPAA law imposes stiff financial penalties for improper exposure of private medical information. But it has not been clearly established how HIPAA applies to medical information in a Notary’s journal entry, said Gary David, an associate professor and electronic health records researcher at Bentley University in Massachusetts.

For example, a Notary could make a note that a signer appeared confused due to having recently taken medication. “If the Notary records a person is taking medication, that’s recording medical information,” David said. “Does that record then become governed by privacy and HIPAA rules?” These are the kind of questions Notaries working in healthcare and their employers will have to ask when developing privacy policies, he said.

Carol Salter, a Notary at McKee Medical Center in Loveland, Colorado, said that if she needed to document a signer was unable to notarize due to medication, she would note that in her record but not specify the type of medication. She said if a Notary’s employer or state law doesn’t set guidelines, Notaries should take their own precautions to ensure privacy, such as securing the journal in a locked area when not in use and covering unrelated entries during a notarization to keep them private.

Key Points

  • There are still unresolved questions on how HIPAA affects Notaries recording medical information in journals.
  • Notaries working in healthcare should always ensure their journal information is protected from unauthorized access.

David Thun is an Associate Editor at the National Notary Association.


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