From Your Billing Pro: Understanding HIPAA Guidelines

March 31, 2014 BHBH

                                                        

 

Understanding HIPAA Guidelines

 

According to HIPAA, what is the protocol on communicating with a patient’s family, friends or other involved in a patient’s care?

 

From a behavioral health perspective, HIPAA allows providers to talk with persons involved in a patient’s care if the patient had a chance to object and does not do so. Of course, if the patient does object, such communication should cease.

 

What about communicating with parents of a patient who is a minor?

 

Absent state law restrictions a provider generally may communicate with parents or other authorized representatives. In situations where a parent might not be an authorized representative, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) notes that behavioral health providers may still have discretion to communicate with the parent if doing so is consistent with state law and the decision is made by a licensed profession al exercising professional judgment.

 

The HIPAA Privacy Rule permits behavioral healthcare providers to handle protected health information of substance abuse and mental health patients in much the same way as providers handle protected health information for patients with other ailments according to guidance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

 

What about communicating with family members of an adult patient if the patient objects to the disclosure?

 

The HIPAA Privacy Rule permits a behavioral healthcare provider to disclose information to family member of an adult patient who objects to the disclosure only to the extent that the provider perceives a serious and imminent threat to the health or safety of the patient or others and the family members are in a position to prevent or lessen the threat.

 

What is the protocol on communicating to law enforcement?

 

A behavioral healthcare provider generally may communicate the date and time of admission and discharge in response to a law enforcement official’s oral or written request, for the purpose of locating or identifying a suspect, fugitive or missing person. The Privacy Rule also permits providers to respond to court orders and court-ordered warrants, and subpoenas and summonses issued by judicial officers and to make disclosures required by state law. 

 

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