Sound Off

I was at the doctor’s office recently, and while I was waiting, I could hear everything the doctor was saying to the patient in the next room. I told the doctor this, but he did not seem too concerned. Isn’t this a privacy violation? And where do I report it?

The Health Information Protection and Privacy Act, a federal law referred to as HIPPA, contains provisions about confidentiality of patient information. If you believe your doctor has violated a patient’s confidentiality, complaints can be made online at


momof4 6 years, 1 month ago

Unless you were able to identify the patient the doctor was talking too, there isn't a violation. You can overhear all the medical information about a particular patient, but as long as you don't hear who the patient actually is, or are able to figure out who the patient is, no breach of confidentiality has occurred. Now if you happened to walk out of your room at the same time that other patient does and you see it is someone you know, then a violation may have occurred.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 6 years, 1 month ago

Yea... Mind your own business. If you are so concerned about medical privacy, how do you feel about entry level clerks having access to all your personal medical information in a National Database under Obamacare?

Curtis Martell 6 years, 1 month ago

Well what a conundrum we have. Entry level clerks at my physician, dentist, insurance company and eye doctors offices all have access to my personal medical information today. So your question is pointless.

So what? I have bad eyes, good blood pressure, allergies, and a bulging L4/5 disk in my back. Overall healthy. Not a state secret.

And what the heck does your comment have to do with the story? I'll tell you. NOTHING.

Blessed4x 6 years, 1 month ago

Just looking for something to b!t@h about?

gphawk89 6 years, 1 month ago

Yes, it's a HIPAA violation if you could clearly hear what they were saying AND identify the other patient by name. If you like your doctor and want him to continue being your doctor, don't report it. But if you want to open a huge can of worms for him, then go right ahead. My opinion - don't be a busybody.

verity 6 years, 1 month ago

I find the accusations of being a busybody rather harsh and unwarranted. I've certainly run into people I know in a doctor's office and this should be a concern to the patient. If the doctor was not concerned about it, I would seriously consider getting a doctor who was.

jafs 6 years, 1 month ago

Yes, of course.

The above comments fail to take into account that if she could hear the doctor with another patient, then other patients can hear the doctor with her.

RoeDapple 6 years, 1 month ago

I been goin' to the same doctor for close to forty years. A lot of his patients and I are on a first name basis and openly discuss our ailments in the waiting room. Hell, if I heard anything said through the wall I could probably tell you who is in there.

Jillian Andrews 6 years, 1 month ago

You should probably contact the Kansas Board of Healing Arts. If they are not the correct entity to report to, they can tell you who is.

Belinda Rehmer 6 years, 1 month ago

No, this is not a HIPAA violation, because there is a WALL (and an assumed door) between the patients. The fact that the patient is in a separate room qualifies this situation under a “hold harmless” clause. IF "hearing through the wall" would hold the Dr responsible it would be time to close most offices because now we are talking about insulating (soundproofing) walls! But am I an expert? No, I just work in health care. So don't take my word for it...

Here’s what HIPAA says: Many customary health care communications and practices play an important or even essential role in ensuring that individuals receive prompt and effective health care. Due to the nature of these communications and practices, as well as the various environments in which individuals receive health care or other services from covered entities, the potential exists for an individual’s health information to be disclosed incidentally. For example, a hospital visitor may overhear a provider’s confidential conversation with another provider or a patient, or may glimpse a patient’s information on a sign-in sheet or nursing station whiteboard. The HIPAA Privacy Rule is not intended to impede these customary and essential communications and practices and, thus, does not require that all risk of incidental use or disclosure be eliminated to satisfy its standards. Rather, the Privacy Rule permits certain incidental uses and disclosures of protected health information to occur when the covered entity has in place reasonable safeguards and minimum necessary policies and procedures to protect an individual’s privacy.

gphawk89 6 years, 1 month ago

Doors, walls, floors, partitions, plenums, etc. in healthcare facilities are required to exhibit certain STC (sound transmission class) characteristics. These are generally more stringent than other facilities to comply with HIPAA regulations. Older medical facilities might not meet these standards. In those cases, the physician at the very least can install sound masking devices to increae the background noise level where required.

bearded_gnome 6 years, 1 month ago

best example of sound masking device:

white noise generator/white noise machine.

ezbreezy 6 years ago

Do you really think the doctor is going to pay for the sound proof walls? NO, they are within the standards of what HIPPA requires for privacy, if all offices were to become sound proof that would be taken out of OUR pockets. I am not willing to pay for it, are you?

Christine Anderson 6 years, 1 month ago

Shame on you. Considering the position you hold, I find it disturbing you are not bothered by this. You are supposed to be a patient advocate! Everyone, think twice beore going to LMH..... I bet Dana would have a problem with what you said. Should have registered anonymously.

lori 6 years, 1 month ago

Yes, shame on her for explaining HIPAA. How dare she bring facts and information to a discussion such as this? It's an outrage.

bevy 6 years, 1 month ago

The poster above did not say she wasn't bothered by it, she simply posted the FACTS of HIPAA. It is not meant to cause your healthcare to take place in a vacuum.

jafs 6 years, 1 month ago

No, but it's supposed to protect your privacy.

If somebody overhears a "confidential" discussion, then that discussion is no longer confidential, and your privacy has been breached.

lori 6 years, 1 month ago

Then you need to take that up with your federal lawmakers. Just because you think a law "should" do something does not make it so.

jafs 6 years, 1 month ago

The issue is probably the interpretation of "reasonable safeguards and minimum necessary policies and procedures to protect an individual's privacy".

Some of us think that walls that are so thin you can hear the patient in the room next to yours don't live up to those standards.

I'm one of them.

ezbreezy 6 years ago

Don't be so dense, if you want to see a Doctor in a room that belongs at NASA with soundproofing then be prepared to see it come out of your tax dollars or privately fund it yourself. UNLESS your doc is in the waiting room with you in front of everyone then it falls under private. Your in a room, that's enough. End of story.

verity 6 years, 1 month ago

From the US Department of Health & Human Services website:

"The Privacy Rule protects all 'individually identifiable health information' held or transmitted by a covered entity or its business associate, in any form or media, whether electronic, paper, or oral."

Much more information:

I have been in examination rooms across the country and have never overheard a conversation in another examination room. What one choses to share in the waiting room is a completely different story---glad I don't go to your doctor, Roe, I really hate hearing about people's ailments : )

bearded_gnome 6 years, 1 month ago

Verity, I have been in a few such doctors' offces/medical fascilities where I could hear from the next room. my first thought is indeed "who's gonna hear my visit?"

there's one office here in lawrence that if you sit in the foyer by the front door, you can sometimes hear at least one doc doing his dictation/phone work.

equalaccessprivacy 6 years, 1 month ago

There's no regard for privacy in Lawrence, even among doctors. Can't even use the public space without getting violated by dumb locals with their offensive southern manners that are completely scripted and insincere and based on aggressively reacting to strangers according to offensive stereotypes.

KansasPerson 6 years, 1 month ago

I hope you and OldSoul know each other, or if not, that you can be introduced to each other very soon! I think you'd get along really well.

Grump 6 years, 1 month ago

You heard my prostate exam? Get a life? Stop pressing your ear against the wall?

impska 6 years, 1 month ago

I was once sitting in the gynecologist in my little gown, freezing and waiting for the doctor who was in the next room. I heard every word. The poor woman had just had a baby and everything that could be going wrong with her body was going wrong - in multiple locations around her body. I will spare you the details that I was forced to hear and she to endure.

Soon after, the doctor walks in and one of the first questions she asks is "So, are you planning on getting pregnant this year?"

I told her "After what I just heard, I don't think I'll ever choose to get pregnant! Do you realize how thin these walls are?!"

She was vaguely embarrassed and tried to assure me that the lady next door was having an uncommonly terrible experience - but I've never recovered.

Thankfully, they have since switched locations to an office with better soundproofing.

jafs 6 years, 1 month ago


I imagine that the doctor makes significantly more money than the patient.

And, why on earth would it be the patient's responsibility?

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 1 month ago

I have to repeat one of my grandparent's stories. My grandparents and my father laughed and laughed when my grandmother and my father talked about it in front of me, so did everyone else in the room.

You're getting spared the details, but the basics were that my grandparents lived in a very small town and were already older. They were staying in a motel in a large city very far away for the weekend, that is, in Denver, Colorado.

The walls were very thin, and there was major activity going on in the next room for hours. My grandparents were lying in bed, laughing together.

I'm sure they were laughing about how they had been exactly the same way in private places when they were much younger.

As they walked out of their motel room the next morning, the couple in the next room did also, right at the same time.

The two couples in the big city of Denver were from the same very small town, and they knew each other very well!

There were stutters, red faces, and after that event, they all knew each other even better.

gatekeeper 6 years, 1 month ago

I bet I know what doctor's office you are talking about. Ended up switching doctors for many reasons, but one was that there was absolutely no privacy and everyone could hear what was going on. One doctor there has a deep voice that carries and can be heard clearly. We assume there is privacy when discussing personal medical issues with a doctor and I think they should all make sure that exam rooms do provide privacy.

gatekeeper 6 years, 1 month ago

I'll narrow it down to an older medical building on 23rd.

The final clincher for that place was going in with an ingrown toe nail. Should have been really simple to take care of. The doctor taking the walk in patients that day wouldn't help me because he didn't like feet. He asked me to make an appt and come back to see my primary. Shouldn't be a doctor if you have issues like that. I know a few people that went there, experienced this same doctor and never returned.

kugrad 6 years, 1 month ago

I switched doctors from an office out in the general Wakarusa area for this reason. I told the doctor about it and he was totally unconcerned. I could easily identify exactly whom he was talking to. What is more, it is not unusual for me to encounter people I know in the waiting room. If I can hear them, they can hear me. I suggested a couple of remedies to the Doctor (playing some soft music on a radio in each room, things like that) and he couldn't have been less interested or concerned. I was. I now have another doctor.

equalaccessprivacy 6 years, 1 month ago

I was raised differently in a more enlightened and liberal part of the country and have no kind words for the local simpletons who seem incapable of registering the concepts of decent social boundaries and the need to respect privacy. The incompetence of the medical profession in Lawrence and the vindictive , criminal element in KU's General Counsel and HR offices terrify me.

jonas_opines 6 years ago

"I was raised differently in a more enlightened. . . part of the country"

Hmm. . . wonder what happened to you, then.

pace 6 years, 1 month ago

I changed doctors when the nurse joked about the results of my test in front of people. She teased me about what sex my expected baby was going to be, then said it. It was so unprofessional I complained. She said she was being friendly. I thought of her as complete ** . I felt like suing, except that would of been a waste of time and energy, (except for the lawyer of course). She had no right to announce. If your doctor has no concern for your privacy he has no real concern for you as a person. Get rid of him/her, get someone who respects the contract.

BMI 6 years, 1 month ago

Most any doctor's office, you can hear people in the next room. What you also hear, is when the doc or nurse opens the door, to call to another staff member, asking if they've gotten the such and such report back on so and so. Clearly all this easily identifies the patient.

Sign in sheets at front desks, lab work, xray, etc: At some KC hospitals, they use metal boxes that utilize a sliding door system to cover the names as they are written down the list. That way, the staff can move it was needed, to conceal who is in the hospital. Not in Lawrence. You can not only see people there with you and what they're getting done (the staff will often write the test being done). But there will be a whole page, and an entire clipboard you can flip through for the month if you had a mind to. Frankly, it's no ones business if someone has a doctor's appt, yet they answer the phone and schedule appts right there where patients stand to turn over paperwork and ask questions. The person on the phone will ask, repeat/confirm names, ages, numbers, birthdates, illnesses and everything in a voice that can be heard in all the adjoining rooms on quiet days, especially the adjoining waiting room.Calling in for a pregnancy test, or cancer screening, or std test being overheard by a co-worker or someone else who spills the news at work, could jeopardize someones employment and cause a lot of embarrassment or misunderstandings. Another favorite, the front desk where they're told to wrestle your insurance or co-pay from you. Others are at times in line. You have to divulge what ever your life story/agreement is with their office, that the person at the desk may not know about, (or it's been going on for years with the same desk people yet they act like it's brand new and unheard of each time). Again, no one else's business. If a doctor has made special payment arrangements with a poor family, they shouldn't be embarrassed with having to 'convince the desk clerk' each time they come in.

jafs 6 years ago


Why would anybody want to go to a doctor that didn't care about patient privacy?

I'll tell you what - you can go to the doctor's office that talks about your personal information in ways that others can hear it, and I'll go to one that doesn't do that.

Tammy Copp-Barta 6 years ago

Who cares .. really ... most of the time I'm at the store and overhear people talking about all their ailments to other people ANYWAY ...

coderob 5 years, 11 months ago

When is this story going away? It's been on the LJworld's popular list for quite some time now.

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 11 months ago

When so many people quit opening the page and reading about it, it will go away.

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