Use and Disclosure of PHI
A significant component of HIPAA regulates the proper uses and disclosures of protected health information (PHI). Generally, the use and disclosure of PHI is allowed for treatment, payment, and healthcare operations. This means that PHI can only be shared for these purposes unless the patient provides written authorization for another use or disclosure.
To be HIPAA compliant, therapists must provide patients with a Notice of Privacy Practices upon intake that outlines how the practice will use and disclose their PHI.
HIPAA also allows therapists to discuss information relevant to a person’s care with other members of their healthcare team. HIPAA permits the sharing of factual information, such as names of medications, symptoms, appointment start and end times, and diagnosis.
Under HIPAA, therapists may share pertinent information (information directly related to treatment) with people involved in a person’s care if the person in treatment:
- Has agreed
- Has been given an opportunity to object and has not objected
- Has indicated they want the other person’s involvement, by, for example, bringing the other person to treatment, or having the other person help schedule sessions and pick up prescriptions
- Is incapable of making decisions as a result of being unconscious, delirious, or otherwise unable to object or agree
HIPAA Release Forms
If your practice requires a disclosure of PHI not covered by payment, treatment, or healthcare operations, then you must ensure that you obtain a HIPAA release form BEFORE any PHI can be disclosed. This is essential to both maintaining the privacy of your patients and protecting your practice from potential HIPAA violations and fines.
Some instances when a HIPAA waiver form is required include for:
- Disclosure of PHI to a third party for any reason other than treatment, payment, or healthcare operations
- PHI used in marketing or fundraising efforts
- PHI shared for research purposes
- Disclosure of any psychotherapy notes
- PHI disclosed or shared for monetary compensation