Sending mail to patients' homes

May 21, 2004

A patient asked that I send appointment reminders to her in a closed envelope, rather than on a postcard, and that her mail be sent to an address other than her home address, and that we not phone her at home. Am I obligated to do this?

Q:One of my patients in hospice is unable to communicate. I have been asked by a family member to speak to the funeral director about the patient's end-of-life wishes. May I have this conversation without violating HIPAA?

A: Yes. Under the law, you're permitted to disclose medical information to funeral directors "prior to, and in reasonable anticipation of" a patient's death, as well as after her death.