Campus Medical Records and College Students' Privacy

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When a college student has a medical issue, he or she is often awarded a measure of privacy. However, medical records are usually open and available for the college or university to analyze and assess even if permission has not been granted by the patient.

Colleges and universities are often independent of privacy laws that affect a patientís records. This means that when there is an issue dealing with medical records, illness, psychosocial issues and similar matters, the patient may not be afforded the same privacy as when he or she is not a student. The justice system for secondary education does not apply as the normal courts, and students may not have the same rights as when they are not part of the college or university life. This means that his or her medical records and matters are not as safe from access than when he or she is going to the hospital as a private citizen.

A student does not necessarily need to give permission for a college or university to access medical records. These situations do not require knowledge that the student could be a danger to others. This could lead to the person being placed in the hospital or into therapy when an incident arises such as an abuse of alcohol or drugs. Thoughts and admissions of wanting to end his or her life could have the university placing a student into a treatment facility. This could also lead to the studentís parents being contacted against the wishes of the patient.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act

When a student becomes part of a college or university, he or she is not covered by HIPAA stipulations. This means that his or her medical records are not confidential within the confines of campus authorities. These files fall under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act which provides parents certain rights in inspecting the records of their children when at an educational facility. The viewing and disclosing of these records may be completed even if permission is not granted by the student. When not enough information has been given to parents about certain situations, the campus may be blamed and the parents may seek to litigate against the university or college.

Because of situations where the child may endanger himself or herself or others, parents are contacted when there are various issues. This could be when alcohol or drugs have been abused, when the youth has expressed depression or suicidal tendencies and similar circumstances. Even if the campus is accused of invading privacy, treatment becomes more important that these matters. Some situations are worsened when parents are contacted, but the college or university is not often held accountable, as the authorities in these facilities were acting in the best interests of the student. This means that there are no HIPAA violations when accessing and disseminating the information.

Accessing the Records

When the university or college believes that the student may be a danger to others, himself or herself or the campus property, the authorities within the estate may access the medical and health records of the student without any permission necessary. This may be to determine if therapy is warranted, if medication should be adjusted or added or if some other issue is causing the problem. Because HIPAA does not apply to these persons, the campus is not illegally accessing these records. It is within the rights of the administration to review and analyze these documents. Afterwards, someone may notify family even if there is a notification expressing the desire to refrain from this activity.

If a student requires psychological or emotional therapy rather than physical healthcare, these notes and details may be reviewed by campus administration before the patient has access. This is not a violation of any law, and there are currently and previously no ways to prevent this. The primary reason these actions are completed is to ensure that the student is not a harm to others or himself or herself. If there is the possibility that he or she could be dangerous, a single room is often suggested.

Legal Recourse

While there are no protections in place to prevent the access of medical records, it may be possible to restrict what is reviewed and why. It is important to contact a lawyer based on the specific case to understand if there are any grounds for action.


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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