Can a Doctor Give Someone Else My Medical Records Without My Permission?

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Individuals are provided with a number of privacy rights, especially concerning their healthcare records. These rights are pursuant to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) as well as state laws. However, there are a number of situations in which medical records may legally be shared with others.

General Rules

HIPAA provides that individuals generally have a right to access their own healthcare records. There are exceptions even to this most general rule, such as not having a right to access psychotherapy notes, records being prepared for a lawsuit or information that could jeopardize the safety or health of the patient or others.

Access is also provided pursuant to an individualís request to supply information to a third party, to guardians, to a minor patientís parents and to a person or estateís personal representative.

Other Parties who Can Receive Information

HIPAA also provides for several other individuals and entities to receive the information. These include the following:

For Treatment, Payment or Healthcare Operations

Healthcare providers and plans can disclose protected health information in order to treat the patient, for billing purposes and to complete its own healthcare operations. They can also do so for these purposes for other healthcare providers or plans. Similarly, disclosure is acceptable if it is for the purpose of completing competence or quality reviews, for fraud or abuse detection or for ensuring compliance.

Coordination and communication regarding treatment options may require that multiple healthcare providers disclose information about the patient. This process is often necessary when one doctor refers a patient to a specialist.

In order to acquire information and payment of premiums, to provide for coverage and to seek reimbursement, health information must also be shared.

Information may sometimes be shared with other individuals than these healthcare entities. For example, in order to make a treatment decision, doctors may consult with family members if the patient cannot make decisions for himself or herself. A healthcare power of attorney includes this right. However, even in emergency situations, healthcare providers are only permitted to discuss the information that is necessary for the other person to have in order to make decisions about care or payment for care.

Disclosures with Opportunity to Agree or Object

Another way that healthcare providers may share confidential health information is to state that they intend to share the information with another individual or entity in the healthcare providerís professional judgment that such disclosures are in the best interests of the individual. If the patient does not object, his or her acceptance is assumed. Informal permission can be granted that allows covered entities to disclose information to the patientís family, relatives, friends or other individuals whom the patient has identified as being involved in his or her care or responsible for payment for care or for locating such individuals.

Legal Purposes

There may be several legal purposes that provide healthcare providers with the right to disclose medical records. This may be pursuant to a statute, regulation or a specific court order. For example, some personal injury victims may be required to undergo a medical examination that is ordered by the court.

These entities may also disclose private health information to authorized governmental entities that are permitted to collect information to help prevent, control or eradicate disease. The entities can also reveal such information pertaining to communicable diseases. Additionally, they can disclose information to health oversight committees that are responsible for monitoring the health care system.

They can also disclose information to law enforcement officers to assist with an ongoing criminal investigation and report suspicions of domestic violence or child abuse or neglect. The entities can disclose information to medical examiners or coroners as needed to help identify a deceased individual or his or her cause of death. They can disclose information that poses a serious threat to the health or safety of the community or public under certain circumstances


Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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