Corporate Compliance

Q&A: Releasing information to non-care family member physicians

Compliance Monitor, September 30, 2009

Q: A patient admitted to the hospital has a close family member who is a physician with privileges at the same hospital. This physician is not involved in the patient’s care, but the patient has given permission for this physician to see his medical information. May the physician access the information electronically (i.e. via the hospital computer system)? Or is this a breach because he is not the attending physician? Must he contact the attending physician to access the information?

A: Competent adult patients may authorize release of their information to anyone they choose. If you have written authorization from the patient to release information to this physician, permission from the attending physician is not necessary. You may allow the physician to access the record electronically if the patient has authorized the physician to review his complete record. If the patient has limited the information that may be disclosed to the physician, paper copies of the information should be provided to meet minimum necessary requirements.

Mary Brandt, MBA, RHIA, CHE, CHPS, answered this question in the September 2009 issue of the HCPro newsletter Briefings on HIPAA. For more information about this newsletter visit the HCMarketplace.

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