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HIPAA authorization for medical records


HIPPA authorization for medical records is a form that an individual fills out and signs in order to allow their doctor, health insurer, or other health care-related person or group to share their personal health care information with their caregivers and family members. This article describes what HIPPA is and what a HIPAA authorization form is and how it works. It then explains how HIPPA’s Privacy Rule can affect caregivers and goes on to list several ways that caregivers can get important medical information about their loved one.      

What is HIPAA?

HIPAA, which stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, is a federal law that tells health care-related professionals and agencies how and when they can share patients’ health care information. These professionals and agencies can include doctors, therapists, other health care providers, health care insurers, and health plans, among others. 

A main element of HIPAA is the Privacy Rule. This states that health care-related professionals and groups are only allowed to share certain types of health information about a person. The purpose of the Privacy Rule is to make sure that people’s health care information is not shared inappropriately and that individuals have access to their own medical information.

What is a HIPAA authorization form?

A HIPAA authorization form, also called a release form, allows a doctor, other health care provider, or health insurer, et cetera, to share a person’s medical information with someone else. 

The authorization can be used for specific medical situations or a person’s overall medical records. For example, a person who is aging or has been diagnosed with a serious illness could sign an authorization form giving their family members access to their medical information on an ongoing basis. Or an elderly person who has recently gone for a lot of tests could sign a form saying that the lab and doctors are allowed to share those specific test results with the person’s spouse. 

The standard HIPAA authorization form lets the person choose to disclose all of their medical records, only medical records about a specific issue, or only medical records from a certain time period. The form also indicates whether or not the person receiving the information can share it with others.

The HIPAA authorization form can be downloaded or be provided by a doctor or other health care professional. It is a good addition to other advance directives, as it can otherwise be difficult for the caregiver to access medical records. 

A copy of the HIPAA authorization form should be kept in the patient’s medical records. Another one should be kept with other health care papers.     

Can a doctor, insurer or health plan require a person to sign a HIPAA authorization form?

No person needs to sign a HIPAA authorization form if they do not want to. 

All the health care-related groups covered by HIPAA laws must offer a person the same treatment, eligibility for benefits, plan enrollment, and payment options whether they sign a HIPAA authorization form or not. 

It is against the law for any of these groups to put any pressure on a patient or health care-plan member to authorize additional uses of their health information. 

How does HIPAA affect caregivers?

The HIPAA Privacy Rule can make it difficult for caregivers to get important medical information about their loved one if the loved one does not want to share it. Doctors, health insurance companies, and most other health care-related professionals and groups are forbidden to share someone’s health care information unless that person has given them permission to do so. Anyone who breaks HIPAA laws could face fines or even criminal penalties.

HIPAA rules also state that doctors and other health care providers must give the patient all medical information about themselves, if the patient wants it. This means, for example, that even if family members feel that it might be extremely distressing for their mother to know that her cancer has spread, they cannot stop the doctor from giving her this information.

In most cases, a medical proxy or legal guardian can access the medical information of the person they are acting on behalf of. 

How can caregivers access a loved one’s medical information?

HIPAA rules allow caregivers (as well as family and friends) to access a loved one’s medical information in several ways.

  • A patient can tell the doctor (or other health care-related person or group) that they may share the information with caregivers. The patient can give this permission verbally or in writing. If they do it verbally, the health care provider needs to ask the patient clearly and directly whether the information can be shared, and the patient           needs to clearly agree.
  • If the caregiver is in the room when the patient shares information with a health           professional or agency, and the patient does not say they mind the caregiver hearing the information, this is considered permission for the caregiver to know.
  • The doctor or other health care provider can decide that it would be best for their patient if the caregiver had access to certain information. When a provider makes a judgement call like this, they will give the caregiver the least information they can while still being effective. For example, a doctor who knows their patient’s adult son gives his mother her pain medications may decide to tell the son about a change in dosage.
  • The patient can sign a HIPAA authorization form giving health care providers and/or agencies permission to disclose their medical information.

Related information

Advance directives

Living wills

Overview of health care documents

Medical power of attorney

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