Health Information Management

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

Briefings on HIPAA, March 1, 2016

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Q: I work in a behavioral health hospital and am looking for guidance relating to disclosures as part of the Clozapine REMS Program. In order for a patient to fill a prescription for Clozapine at an outside pharmacy (not our on-site pharmacy), the pharmacy is required to have a copy of the patient's latest blood draw (absolute neutrophil count). Is the patient required to sign a release of information for us to be able to send the latest blood draw results, or is sharing the results with the outside pharmacy considered part of the process when the patient is registered in the Clozapine program?

In addition, if the latest lab results contain more information than what is required for the Clozapine prescription to be filled, should we edit the results to only include what is specifically needed by the pharmacy?

A: Releasing this information is considered treatment, so the patient's authorization is not needed. Editing the results report to release only the neutrophil count would be a good practice, if it is reasonable to do that. If not, it would be acceptable to release the complete results containing the neutrophil count, since the minimum necessary requirement does not apply to treatment disclosures.

Editor's note: This question was answered by Mary Brandt. Brandt is a healthcare consultant specializing in healthcare regulatory compliance and operations improvement. She is also an advisory board member for BOH. This information does not constitute legal advice. Consult legal counsel for answers to specific privacy and security questions. Email your HIPAA questions to Associate Editor Nicole Votta at

This is an excerpt from a member only article. To read the article in its entirety, please login or subscribe to Briefings on HIPAA.

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