Health Information Management

Q&A: Releasing information to law enforcement

HIM-HIPAA Insider, September 28, 2010

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Q. A patient assaulted another patient while both were at our substance abuse treatment facility. May we release information to the police regarding this incident?

A. Federal laws governing privacy and substance abuse treatment are the strictest of all privacy protections—for good reason. 
 
Sadly, a great deal of discrimination occurs against patients diagnosed with substance abuse disorders, and providing them with the utmost privacy helps ensure that they will obtain the care they need. However, the law does provide for an exception where a crime is committed on the premises. In this case, you may release information necessary for law enforcement to investigate, following the minimum necessary standard, of course. 
 
As with all these challenging scenarios, be sure to consult legal counsel if you are unsure how to proceed. 
 
Editor’s note: Chris Simons, RHIA, director of utilization management, HIM, and privacy officer at Spring Harbor Hospital in Westbrook, ME, answered this question in the September issue of Medical Records Briefing.



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