The goal of the HIPAA Privacy Rule is to ensure that an individual’s health information is properly protected while allowing the sharing of this information with concerned family or friends. While the intent of HIPAA is to strike a balance between protecting a patient’s privacy and involving loved ones in a position to help, it can sometimes be a barrier to family members trying to help and understand a loved one’s illness.
HIPAA specifically permits service providers to share information with family members if the patient is present, or if the patient agrees or has given permission by signing a release form.
If you are not getting information about your loved one, the first thing to do is find out whether they have signed a release form, allowing the provider to share information with you. This can be easier said than done, as the only way to confirm this may be by asking your loved one directly. Some treatment facilities institute a “blackout period” when an individual first enters residential treatment, so the possibility of holding this conversation may be delayed. If your loved one has opted not to sign a release form, you may need to be patient and try to understand why they may wish to maintain their privacy at this time. As frustrating as it is, you may need to be patient while seeking this information.
Sometimes, it is possible to give information to a service provider even if they cannot reciprocate by sharing information with you until a release is signed. This at least enables you to share important information with your child’s clinician. Not all facilities permit this exchange, however. Ultimately, if your loved one does not want the clinicians to share information with you, there is nothing you can do until they change their mind.