HIPAA Mental Health Frequently Asked Questions | Caregiver Action Network

HIPAA Mental Health Frequently Asked Questions

HIPAA guidelines may sometimes make the options available to you as a family caregiver unclear.

HIPAA may not be the barrier you think it is. These questions highlight the options available to you as a family caregiver in regards to HIPAA, and how both you and your loved one can best navigate the do's and dont's of the policy.

What to Know and How to Discuss with Your Loved One

No. Health care providers may speak with you or any other family or friends supporting your loved one when any one of the following apply: Your one loved has given permission to their doctor or therapist. The doctor or therapist has determined that that there is a serious or imminent threat to your loved one’s health or safety, and you (or others) are able to minimize this threat. Your loved one is incapacitated.
The health information your loved one’s doctor or therapist can share with you or others is limited to what your loved one has given permission for them to share, OR what the doctor or therapist has determined is directly relevant to your or other’s role in your loved one’s care.
No. Your loved one’s doctor or therapist can share relevant health information to you without any release authorization on record in any situation where they believe it is in the best interest of your loved one’s care or they are in danger of harming themselves or others.
The first way your loved one can provide this authorization is in writing. This can be a note or a medical records release form that will be included in their files.

The second way your loved one can provide authorization is by talking to their doctor directly. They may do this by speaking with their doctor on the phone or by discussing it in person during an appointment. This includes situations where the doctor or therapist asks your loved one directly for permission to share specific information with you and they agree, or tells your loved one that they plan to share this information with you and they do not object.

Your loved one’s doctor may also use their professional judgement and assume consent in specific situations. A situation where the doctor may assume consent is if you’re accompanying your loved one at an appointment.
Yes. Your loved one can limit what information their doctor or therapist can share.

For example: Your loved one may say they are okay with their therapist discussing their new medication with you but do not want them to discuss their treatment for alcohol addiction.
Yes. Your loved one is allowed to specify who their doctor or therapist can provide information to.

For example: Your loved one may tell their doctor that they would like information shared with their sister, but not their spouse.
Yes. You can contact your loved one’s doctor and ask questions at any time. They do not have to acknowledge or answer your questions if your loved one has told them they do not want information shared with you and they don’t believe it is in your loved one’s best interest.
Yes. You may contact their doctor or therapist and share your concerns with them at any point. They have no obligation to discuss these concerns with you but may take this information under advisement for your loved one's care.
No. Any information you share may not be discussed with your loved one if it would reveal who shared the information. This allows you the ability to disclose relevant safety information with the doctor without fear of disrupting your relationship.
Your loved one’s doctor or therapist can share information – even if the patient has stated they do not want information shared - when they believe there is a serious and imminent threat to the health or safety of your loved one or others. At all other times, they must respect the wishes of their patient.
Yes. Your loved one’s doctor or therapist may share necessary information about your loved one to law enforcement, family members, or other persons, if they believe they are a serious and imminent threat to self or others.

If your loved one’s doctor or therapist believes this disclosure is necessary to prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat to the health or safety of their patient or others, they are allowed to alert people whom the doctor believes are reasonably able to prevent or lessen the threat.
Talk to your loved one. It is possible they asked their doctor to no longer share information with you. If that is the case, it is important to respect their wishes.

If your loved one is still comfortable with you having access to this information, they may want to discuss this with their doctor directly or provide something in writing that gives their doctor permission to share information with you again.