Health Information Management

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

HIM-HIPAA Insider, July 20, 2015

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

Q: I work in a primary/urgent care center, and I am often responsible for following up with patients about lab or imaging results. If the patient is a child, I give the results to the parent or guardian. Before providing results, however, I check the privacy clause to ensure the person with whom I am speaking is allowed to have the child’s results. I was recently told by one of my coworkers that if the person I am speaking to is the parent of the child, I can release results even if the parent is not listed on the HIPAA privacy form. Is this true?

A: It is true that health information about a minor can be disclosed to a noncustodial parent unless a court order or other legal action prohibits the sharing of the information with that noncustodial parent. On the other hand, covered entities (CE) are not required to disclose the health information about the minor to someone whose name is not listed as a contact for that minor. CEs may adopt privacy practices that are more stringent than HIPAA.

You also need to take state law into account before releasing health information to parents or guardians. For example, if the minor was seen for treatment of a sexually transmitted disease or for prenatal care, several states have laws that prohibit sharing this information with a parent or guardian without a signed consent or authorization from the minor. Also, if the minor has reached the age of informed consent under state law, an authorization from the minor is necessary unless state law specifically allows or requires disclosure to parents and guardians.

Editor’s note: Chris Apgar, CISSP, President of Apgar & Associates, LLC in Portland, Oregon, answered this question for HCPro’s Briefings on HIPAA newsletter. This information does not constitute legal advice. Consult legal counsel for answers to specific privacy and security questions.

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