Health Information Management

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

HIM-HIPAA Insider, August 4, 2014

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Submit your HIPAA questions to Editor Jaclyn Fitzgerald at and we will work with our experts to provide you with the information you need.


Q: The HIPAA Omnibus Rule provision on decedents states family members and others involved in the care of a decedent will be able to obtain the PHI of the decedent unless the decedent expressly indicated otherwise. The example given in the Federal Register states "a covered healthcare provider could describe the circumstances that led to an individual's passing with the decedent's sister who is asking about her sibling's death."
Does this apply specifically to communications with the family member and others involved in the care of the decedent or does this mean we can release the medical record of the decedent to these individuals?
A: Omnibus Rule comments state that a CE is "permitted" to "disclose relevant protected health information" of a decedent to family members or others involved in the individual's care or payment for care prior to the individual's death. The comments do not indicate the information may only be disclosed verbally. However, the word "relevant" indicates that the information disclosed should be limited to the minimum necessary. Disclosure of the decedent's complete medical record should be made only with written authorization from the executor of the decedent's estate or other personal representative prescribed by state law.
Editor’s note: Mary D. Brandt, MBA, RHIA, CHE, CHPS, vice president of health information at Baylor Scott & White Health in Temple, Texas, answered this question for HCPro’s Briefings on HIPAA newsletter.


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