Health Information Management

Q&A: Releasing PHI to a collection agency

HIM-HIPAA Insider, November 23, 2010

Want to receive articles like this one in your inbox? Subscribe to HIM-HIPAA Insider!

A. No. Collection activities fall under the “treatment, payment, and operations” exception. However, you are required to release only the minimum necessary information to the collection agency. This would not generally include diagnostic or other clinical information, for example.

This becomes problematic when the debt is owed to a psychiatrist or an HIV treatment specialist, but it is still allowed under HIPAA. (But be sure to check your state laws, which may be stricter and therefore applicable!)
 
Another note about collection agencies: You need to have a business associate agreement with them because you are sharing PHI when you share even demographic information on your patients.
 
Ensure that the agreement is updated to include the newest rules that require both you and your business associates to comply with HIPAA.
 
Editor’s note: Chris Simons, RHIA, director of utilization management, HIMS, and privacy officer at Spring Harbor Hospital in Westbrook, ME answered this question, which originally appeared in the November issue of Medical Records Briefing.



Want to receive articles like this one in your inbox? Subscribe to HIM-HIPAA Insider!

Most Popular