Health Information Management

Q&A: Patient authorization to release information

HIM-HIPAA Insider, October 20, 2009

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Q. A patient whose parents are divorced is admitted to the hospital. Should we require both parents to sign a release of information? What should we do if one parent doesn’t sign it?
 
A. Divorce law varies by state, so your policy should reflect your state’s statutes and regulations. Generally, most states acknowledge that two individuals are parents regardless of their marital status. Both parents may consent to treatment and obtain copies of records for their minor children. Note that the child’s consent may be required for information pertaining to substance abuse treatment, mental health records, family planning, and sexually transmitted diseases. However, most divorce decrees also require the parties to consult with each other when making medical decisions for their child. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the parties, not the healthcare provider, to keep each other informed. Reminding the parent who presents with the child for care of his or her responsibility to inform the other parent may be appropriate. Be sure to document this conversation. Unless one parent requests that the other not be permitted to participate, most organizations will accept either parent’s signature as sufficient.
 
Note: Chris Simons, RHIA, director of utilization management HIM and privacy officer at Spring Harbor Hospital in Westbrook, ME, answered this question in the October issue of Medical Records Briefing.



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