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HIPAA Guide for Parents and Patients

HIPPA and your Child's PHI


Updated January 17, 2009

Pediatric offices will face some big changes under HIPAA and the Privacy Rule.

HIPAA is not meant to make it harder for you to get medical care for your child or get access to their health records. If you are noticing big problems or inconviences, it is likely because someone is misinterpreting HIPAA regulations.

For example, TV news reports are stating that new HIPAA regulations will mean that a friend or family member won't be able to pick up your prescriptions for you. But HIPAA actually goes out of its way to explain that 'the fact that a relative or friend arrives at a pharmacy and asks to pick up a specific prescription for an individual effectively verifies that he or she is involved in the individual's care.'

Pediatricians used to often fax copies of shot records to schools and daycares. Now, unless you provide written consent, your doctor's office may not be able to do that, since it might mean an unauthorized release of PHI. You might have to get those records yourself and then give them to whoever needs them. Using the example above, the fact that the school or daycare is asking for a specific student's information and that they know that you are the child's doctor should imply that they are 'involved in the individual's care' too.

Another situation arises if a child's babysitter or neighbor, etc. takes the child to the doctor. Since they aren't a parent or legal guardian, can you provide them with the child's PHI? Again, the fact that they have the child with them should effectively verify 'that he or she is involved in the individual's care' and you shouldn't need written authorization to release PHI.

Health forms and permission to administer medications letters might will also have to be given to a parent or guardian to give to the child's school, although this should be regarded as 'Treatment' and should be allowed without authorization.

You can also give your doctor written consent to permit any of these disclosures if you wish though.

Your doctor also won't be able to disclose your PHI to your family members unless you authorize it, although this can be an oral request. Technically, if you have a baby, your Pediatrician would not be allowed to walk out of Labor and Delivery and tell family members if it was a boy or a girl, unless you provided consent.

Your doctor's office will still be able to use sign-in sheets (although they can't list your diagnosis or complaint) and call out your name in the waiting room, as these are considered incidental disclosures.

Hopefully, many of these situations will be further clarified so that parents and doctors aren't inconvenienced by HIPAA.

Minors and HIPAA

Although parents will in general have access to their children's medical records, there are situations where your health care provider can restrict this access. For example, a pregnant teen doesn't need their parent's consent for treatment in many states, so you might not be able to request your child's chart to see if she had a pregnancy test.

State laws where you live will determine how much of your child's PHI you can get through HIPAA. In many states, minors can consent to treatment and testing for STDs and alcohol and drug treatment, so parents might not be able to access these records. A Pediatrician can also restrict a parents access if they think that it will harm the child. And you can't access your own or your child's psychotherapy notes.

To protect your children's confidentiality, and enhance their relationship with their Pediatrician, you might sign an agreement that they have a confidential relationship so that you won't have access to your children's records.

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