Chief Compliance and Ethics Officer Health Care

Is asking if have COVID symptoms PHI?

  • 1.  Is asking if have COVID symptoms PHI?

    Posted 07-07-2020 12:01 PM
    How many believe that if the following question is asked of our employees, it is considered PHI?

    Do you have any of the COVID symptoms listed above? Mark "yes" if you do. If no, click "submit."

    Nicole Goodman
    University Compliance Manager/HIPAA Privacy Officer
    Western Washington University
    19th Annual CEI Virtual Conference

  • 2.  RE: Is asking if have COVID symptoms PHI?

    Posted 07-07-2020 12:18 PM
    For me it depends on what "hat" the person is wearing.  If they are considered a patient and being treated as a patient then yes, I would consider it PHI if at least one identifier is attached to the information.

    If they are considered an employee and being asked as part of the employee health/surveillance program, then I would not consider it PHI.

    For example, every morning when I come to the office I have to fill out a questionnaire which includes my name, employee ID #, temperature, and answers to a few questions regarding some symptoms associated with COVID-19.  I don't consider myself a patient and don't consider my information PHI since it's for our employee health program.​

    David Garrison
    Compliance/Privacy Officer

    19th Annual CEI Virtual Conference

  • 3.  RE: Is asking if have COVID symptoms PHI?

    Posted 07-08-2020 11:59 AM

    I agree with David's comment, it depends on the hat.


    Marti Arvin

    Executive Advisor

    CynergisTek, Inc.


    P. 512-402-8550, ext. 7051

    C. 615-540-8071



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  • 4.  RE: Is asking if have COVID symptoms PHI?

    Posted 07-10-2020 11:25 AM
    I'd probably look to 45 CFR 160.103 to answer this. Under definition of Protected Health Information it states:

    (2) Protected health information excludes individually identifiable health information
    (iii) In employment records held by a covered entity in its role as employer.

    James Bishop JD, MPA, CHPC

    19th Annual CEI Virtual Conference

  • 5.  RE: Is asking if have COVID symptoms PHI?

    Posted 07-10-2020 11:34 AM me the key goes back to a simple Yes/NO question that can help clear up possible confusion.

    Is the entity acting in its role as employer or as a health care provider in the provision of services?

    In my view, and I have no problem from a C&C that people may go in similar or different directions, the entity is acting in a role of employer in the scenario.

    Thanks James for sharing that reference as it may also help provide useful clarification.

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