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Privacy Conundrums: How Much Information Can You Share With Your Patients?


Information sharing between doctors and their patients is the centerpiece of HIPAA. A patient’s right for knowledge of their own health information is vital for upholding the ethical principles of the Healthcare Industry.

The rules of HIPAA were set to protect the privacy and security of sensitive information regarding a patient’s health conditions. But for the doctors, throughout this whole process, it always boils down to one question.

How much patient information can you actually share with your patient?

Do you know the answer to that question? Or more importantly, does your support staff know the answer?

Even though the HIPAA rules seem pretty straightforward, there is a lot of uncertainty among doctors and practices regarding which information is open for sharing and which is not. This confusion ultimately leads to certain doctors being very discreet around HIPAA, up to a point where patients are not allowed to access any information at all.

The HIPAA Act states that any patient has full rights to request a soft copy of their health info. With the rising popularity of Electronic Health Records (EHRs), it should even be more convenient for practices to share them with the patients. As stated by the HHS, any practice is bound to produce multiple copies of a patient’s health report if it is present in an electronic form.

These reports should include medical records, test reports, treatment files, insurance documentation, and various other documents involved in the medical treatment of the patient. which are maintained separately from the rest of the patient’s medical record, are excluded from the HIPAA requirements. Any reports which have any government laws attached to it, like psychotherapy notes, are exempted from this rule.

Moreover, patients are also allowed the freedom of asking for their medical records, without any official reason. Practices do not have the authority to withhold access to any medical documents, for no reason at all. (even if it contains something that might upset the patient). Patients are also entitled to their records even they are unable to pay for their medical fees.

However, sometimes it may be considered acceptable to hold back some information which falls under the HIPAA Protection right, even when the patients are not happy with it.  But sadly, some practices use this reason as some sort of legal guard to prevent any hampering of their reputation through unhappy patients.

We hope that by now, most of your doubts and confusion relating to HIPAA Protection rules are cleared. There are many other official sources provided by HSS which you can use as a general guide for patient information sharing.
You can also consult with your legal team to devise an efficient strategy for  your information sharing process.