Corporate Compliance

HIPAA Q&A: STD information and parents

Compliance Monitor, March 7, 2012

Q. What is the responsibility of the pharmacist if he or she dispenses a prescription for a minor for treatment of a sexually transmitted disease (STD) and the minor’s parent asks about the prescription?

A. This will often depend on state law. Many state laws protect certain classes of minor health information, and the treatment of STDs is often one of them.

Remember that if state law does not specifically allow or require the release of the minor’s PHI to the parent or guardian, HIPAA requires that PHI be treated as if the minor were an adult.

Also, if the minor has reached the age of informed consent pursuant to state law, the minor must be treated as an adult in regard to the treatment he or she has consented to—unless state law specifically allows or requires the covered entity to provide the parent or guardian access to the minor’s PHI (45 CFR 164.502[g][3]). Without a state law mandate that allows release of a minor’s PHI and the minor has reached the age of informed consent, the covered entity may answer a parent’s question about a minor’s health condition. This means the covered entity may also elect not to release the PHI to the parent or guardian.

Carefully review state law as it applies to the release of a minor’s health information to a parent or guardian. State law can be complex, and the HIPAA Privacy Rule can be confusing. It is a good idea to seek legal advice before adopting practices relating to the release of a minor’s PHI without the minor’s authorization.

Editor’s note: Chris Apgar, CISSP, president of Apgar & Associates, LLC, in Portland, OR, answered this question.