The law protects the relationship between a client and mental health care provider. Written permission or authorization from the patient is required to use or disclose private health information for purposes other than treatment, payment, healthcare operations, or as required by law or for public health reasons.
In general, the HIPPA privacy rule gives individuals the right to request a restriction on uses and disclosures of their protected health information (PHI). The individual is also provided the right to request confidential communications or that a communication of private health information be made by alternative means, such as sending correspondence to the individual's office instead of the individual's home. At the same time, the privacy rule is balanced so that it permits the disclosure of PHI needed for patient care and other important purposes.
The privacy rule does not require a provider to obtain a signed consent form before sharing information for treatment purposes. Healthcare providers can freely share information for treatment purposes without a signed patient authorization.
The privacy rule does not cut off all communications between the provider and the families and friends of patients. As long as the patient does not object, the privacy rule permits the provider to:
- share needed information with family, friends, or anyone else a patient identifies as involved in his or her care;
- disclose information when needed to notify a family member or anyone responsible for the patient's care, about the patient's location or general condition;
- share the appropriate information for these purposes even when the patient is incapacitated if doing so is in the best interest of the patient.
A healthcare provider may disclose the following to appropriate entities, even if the patient/family objects:
- Suspected child abuse or dependant adult or elder abuse, for which I am required by law to report this to the appropriate authorities immediately.
- If a client is threatening serious bodily harm to another person/s, I must notify the police and inform the intended victim.
- If a client intends to harm himself or herself, I will make every effort to enlist their cooperation in ensuring their safety. If they do not cooperate, I will take further measures without their permission that are provided to me by law in order to ensure their safety.