Health Information Management

Ask the expert: Is it a HIPAA violation to release information to a bus driver's school regarding his recent alcoholism diagnosis?

HIM-HIPAA Insider, July 16, 2007

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Q: We have a patient in the ICU with alcohol poisoning and a diagnosis of alcoholism. Once he completes detoxification, we will release him. The complication is that he is a school bus driver, and the Department of Social Services (DSS) called us about the case. DSS wants know whether they should report this finding to the school system. I researched and could not find whether this is a "reportable" event under HIPAA, so I believe that releasing the information is a HIPAA violation. What is correct?

A: The privacy rule does not define reportable events, because state law or regulation does this. However, HIPAA does permit you to release PHI as required to comply with state law or regulation. You should report this event only if your state requires it.

Editor's note: Mary D. Brandt, MBA, RHIA, CHE, CHPS, answered this question in the July 2007 issue of Briefings on HIPAA. For more information, click here.

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