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January 2, 2012

Pennsylvania Asks Health Care Providers for Identification

by Jonathan B. Stepanian, Esq.

We previously wrote about an amendment to the Pennsylvania Health Care Facilities Act that imposed specific photo identification requirements.  Although the Act was specific, it left much of the implementation state Department of Health (DOH).

On December 10, 2011, the DOH published interim regulations that implement the photo identification requirements.  The regulations have limited application because the photo id requirements are staggered in implementation.  The interim regulations, therefore, only apply to 1) individuals who provide direct patient or consumer care outside of a health care facility or employment agency, or 2) employees of a private practice physician.

Until June 1, 2015, the photo id requirements do not apply to individuals who provide direct care at a health care facility.  However, the interim photo identification regulations for those who provide care outside of a health care facility were effective as of December 10, 2011, when the regulations were published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

Summary of Interim Photo Identification Regulations Effective December 10, 2011

  • Who do the regulations apply to?  The photo id requirements apply only to individuals involved in face-to-face, hands on care of patients and consumers outside of a health care facility or employment agency, or in the private practice of a physician.  They do not apply to individuals who provide care in a hospital or hospital-affiliated clinic.  Instead, the regulations only apply to individuals who, for example, provide care at a patient’s home.
  • What must be contained on the identification? 
    1. A recent photograph of the individual.  The photograph must be updated every 4 years, which is consistent with driver’s licenses in the Commonwealth;
    2. The individual’s full name, first and last;
    3. The individual’s title.  For now, the only titles required are those licenses, certifications, or registrations held by the individual and recognized by the Commonwealth, such as “physician,” “nurse,” etc.  The title must be “as large as possible in block type” and be located on a “one-half inch tall strip as close as practicable to the bottom edge of the badge”; and,
    4. The name of the health care facility or employment agency that employs the individual.
  • Who must issue the badge?  For agency employees, the health care facility where the agency is working  must issue the badge that contains the name of the facility, the employee’s title and status at the facility, such as temporary contract employee.
  • Are there exceptions for employee safety or religion?  The regulations permit the last name of an employee to be omitted or concealed when delivering direct care to a patient or consumer who exhibits symptoms of irrationality or violence.  An individual who expresses religious objection to the taking of his or her photograph is also exempt from the regulations.

Health care facilities must prepare written policies stating how it will address the safety and religious exceptions yet still ensure that those individuals are adequately identified on their badge.

So why don’t these regulations apply to the largest group of health care providers, those who work in health care facilities?  DOH observed that those individuals generally have badges that are encrypted with codes to control access to secure units, medication storage units, and other areas associated with a health care facility.  Therefore, the statute provides those facilities with considerable time — until 2015 — to transition to the newly issued photo id requirements.  It is important to note, however, that health care providers working in health care facilities must wear an identification tag that meets requirements that have existed since 1999.

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Resources:

Title 28, Ch. 53 Rules and Regulations relating to Photo Identification Badges, Pennsylvania Bulletin

Health Care Facilities Act amendment relating to Photo Identification Badges, Pennsylvania Statutes

Confusion Remains over Health Care ID Badge Regulations, Pennsylvania Medical Society

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Jonathan B. Stepanian, Esq.

Jon is an attorney whose practice is specialized in litigation, complex medical professional liability defense, health care, and providing legal counsel on numerous issues associated with day-to-day hospital operations. He has successfully tried several cases to verdict as first-chair trial counsel before juries in both state and federal court. Jon has also represented clients in appellate litigation, mediation, and in connection with administrative agency investigations.

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