Health Information Management

HIPAA Q&A: You've got questions. We've got answers!

HIM-HIPAA Insider, August 31, 2015

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Q: Footage from a security camera at a mental health agency is needed for a police investigation. Clients of the mental health agency are on this particular segment of film. Is this considered PHI, and would releasing to the police be a violation?

A: To avoid a HIPAA violation, law enforcement needs to present a subpoena before the footage is turned over. The footage is not needed to protect any of the clients. It is related to an investigation and, as is true for all law enforcement requests associated with an investigation, a court order or subpoena is required. Before turning the footage over to law enforcement, the mental health agency needs to make sure it adheres to the minimum necessary standard. It's also wise to make sure there are no more-stringent state law provisions. Some states may prohibit such disclosures without client authorization or possibly a court order. If the mental health agency also provides alcohol and chemical dependency treatment and the footage includes clients who are being treated for alcohol and chemical dependency, the footage cannot be disclosed without a protective court order pursuant to 42 CFR Part 2.

Editor’s note: Chris Apgar, CISSP, president of Apgar & Associates, LLC, in Portland, Oregon, answered this question for HCPro’s Briefings on HIPAA newsletter. This information does not constitute legal advice. Consult legal counsel for answers to specific privacy and security questions.

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