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Would You Honor This Patient’s Request to ID a ‘Friend’s’ Frames?

‘Just look it up in their file,’ she says…




During the afternoon rush, a particular patient walked around the optical department while on her cell phone. “I’m at my eye doctor’s office — I am totally going to get the same glasses that the lady from the sushi bar has.” She continued loudly, “I don’t know what kind of glasses they are but I’m going to figure out a way to get them.”


Real Deal scenarios are inspired by true stories but are changed to sharpen the dilemmas involved and should not be confused with real people or places. Responses are peer-sourced opinions and are not a substitute for professional legal advice. Please contact your attorney if you have any questions about an employee or customer situation in your own business.


Carissa Dunphy has been working in private practice optometry since 2008 and is the founder of Optician Now ( Follow Carissa on Instagram and Facebook at @opticiannow.

After 10 or so minutes of rambling and acting as though nobody else had heard her entire conversation, the patient approached Jane, an optician. “Hi, I was hoping you could help me find a specific pair of glasses that a friend of mine wears,” she said.

“I will certainly do my best,” Jane said enthusiastically. “Could you describe the frame, or do you know the brand or model?”

“Not specifically, but I can tell you all about them!” The patient continued, “They’re really large and kind of square, but also kind of round.

The frames are really unique cause they’re a bright cobalt blue on the top half and like a spotted white and pink on the bottom half.”


Jane commented, “They do sound cool! Do you have a picture of your friend wearing them, so I could possibly identify them?”

“No. I had one photo, but it was too far away to see any detail,” the patient replied.

Jane responded, “Could you text your friend and ask them to share the brand or model, or text us a photo of the frame?”

“No, I don’t really want to bother her,” the patient continued. “She told me that she got her glasses here, so you should be able to look her up on your computer and get the information.”

Jane knew from the phone call that this was not, in fact, a friend of the patient and that continuing with the back-and-forth questions would be a wild goose chase, likely yielding no useful information.

The patient saw the reluctant look on Jane’s face, and blurted out, “I really love those glasses and will buy them today — I have cash. If I could get you to help me with this, I will definitely return and be a patient of this office!”

As much as Jane loved to make a sale, she also had a conscience. Jane knew that many of her co-workers had previously done this exact thing when asked, and would again, so there was no point in asking for one of their opinions.

“Pleeeeease?” the patient continued. “It’s got to be super easy to look up! It would mean so much to me and I will tell all my friends and family about the great service I received from this office!”

Jane could have very quickly pulled up the order to get this whiny diva out of her office, but a million questions were running through her mind…

The Big Questions

  • Are glasses orders actually part of a medical record?
  • Is HIPAA even applicable here? Should she look up the other person’s glasses order real quick to get the sale and gain a patient?
  • Knowing that if she declines the request, the patient could return to ask someone else who will likely oblige — or even worse, leave the business a bad review. Should she bring this up as an all-staff discussion?


Rick R.
Girard, PA

I tried to find out if giving out frame information is a breach of HIPAA. There’s no clear-cut answer I could find. But I wouldn’t take the chance. If you want a bad review, that’s a good way to get one. This woman is not taking into consideration the ramifications of this request. If she wanted the frame, she could make concessions to avoid problems. If not, then don’t sell. It is not worth the possible negative outcomes. There are bigger issues if one staff member complies and another does not. The biggest problem here is the customer does not know the woman at the sushi bar. It’s not like it was her sister or something of that nature. You can’t worry too much about a bad review … What’s she going to say — ‘They wouldn’t give out another patient’s information’? Sounds like a positive to me.

Jeff R.
North Sioux City, SD

By pulling a patient’s file, you have confirmed to the new client that the original patient was in fact a patient with you, which is a HIPAA violation.

Judy C.
Virginia Beach, VA

No, eyewear is not part of a patient’s medical record. However, fishing around for a patient’s name and other info, as this woman is trying to do, would be a violation if revealed. “The lady at the sushi place” has a name and her “friend” would know that. The fact that other staff have or will accommodate her is a topic for the next staff meeting and a discussion on what information can and cannot be shared. Patient information should never be shared with another patient without express permission.

Jennifer L.
Dansville, NY

First off, we don’t sell the same frame to another person without the original buyer’s permission. We live in a small town and only sell one of each style/color. Because how can you be unique if everyone has your frame? Second, she’s incredibly disrespectful and demanding. She’s not the kind of customer we want, so we would tell her she’ll have to bring her friend in so we can get permission from said friend in person to share her style with someone else. We’d tell her that we’d be courteous enough to do the same for her. No doubt she’d never be back. (Wipe hands clean of the situation.)

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