Who Should be Included in Your HIPAA Release?
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is the law that disallows a doctor or hospital from providing a patient’s medical information to a third party without a release. Many people obtain releases during the ordinary course of business, like insurance companies. In addition, HIPAA Releases are usually included in Medical Powers of Attorney.
However, should people other than agents under a Medical Power of Attorney be included in a HIPAA Release? A Medical Power of Attorney is usually only executed along with a person’s last will and testament, which is not typically updated very regularly. And, families often move to different states while chasing careers. In fact, it’s not unusual for a person’s agent under a medical power of attorney to live in another state. In those instances, the agent is typically not present and is relying on regular updates from another friend or family member to provide the medical updates.
In theory, HIPAA prevents any unauthorized person from receiving medical information. In practice, the dissemination of medical information to family and friends seems to vary between facilities and even between nurses and doctors within the same facility. Regardless, nurses and doctors don’t have the time to provide the hourly updates that a son or daughter might desire. Further, the lack of regularly communicated updates may impact the agent’s decision-making process because of the inability to process progress reports.
It certainly begs the question, who should be included in a HIPAA Release? As you conduct your estate planning, execute your wills and trusts, and sign powers of attorney, consider who will actually be visiting you regularly at the hospital. Ask yourself whether your children will want to receive updates more regularly than a phone call from a doctor or nurse. If you decide grandchildren, nephews and nieces, or friends will probably be your “caretakers,” then it may be a good idea to execute a separate limited HIPAA Release for those individuals. In lieu of signing a separate HIPAA Release, ask the estate planning attorney to allow your agent under a Medical Power of Attorney to designate additional people to receive medical information in case you are unable to make your own healthcare decisions.
Robert Newton is an attorney based in Frisco, Texas, that practices estate planning, real estate law, business law, and corporate law. This post is meant for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.