HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. According to the CDC, this act “required the creation of national standards to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge.” Healthcare providers, health plans, healthcare clearing houses, and business associates must follow the Privacy Rule set forth in HIPAA. Portions of HIPAA apply specifically to mental healthcare practices. HIPAA covers telehealth regulations and sharing of mental healthcare information with various parties. If you are a mental healthcare provider and need some help navigating HIPAA laws, contact a lawyer in East Brunswick NJ like Bowne Barry & Barry. HIPAA can be complicated and it is always good to speak with a lawyer about your practice to make sure you are complying with all the rules and regulations.
Since the start of the global pandemic, telehealth appointments have been on the rise. Many patients do not feel comfortable venturing out to the doctor and prefer to attend their appointments virtually from the comfort of their own home. HIPAA has expanded some of its regulations to include stipulations for the new boom of telehealth. For example, the provider cannot conduct the appointment in a public place or in a public forum like Facebook.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Service – Office for Civil Rights has stated that “covered healthcare providers will not be subject to penalties for violations of the HIPAA Privacy, Security, and Breach Notification Rules that occur in the good faith provision of telehealth during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency.” Many mental healthcare providers are using secure platforms like ohMD and Doximity for virtual appointments. Your specific telehealth policies are a great thing to discuss with a lawyer to make sure you are complying with HIPAA.
Sharing Mental Healthcare Information to Prevent Harm
As a mental healthcare provider, there are times where you may feel that a patient is potentially a harm risk to themselves or others. In this case, HIPAA laws permit mental healthcare providers to share information that typically would be confidential in order to lessen the potential harm. This includes sharing information with a spouse, parent, or law enforcement if necessary. These types of notifications in the case of potential harm are known as “duty to warn.”
Treating Children and Teens
As a parent, it is important to understand the details of your child’s mental health treatment. In most cases, if the child is a minor, the parent becomes the child’s “personal representative.” They can have access to all medical records and authority over treatment until a child turns 18. Young adults have control over their own treatment and who gets access to their records. There are some exceptions to the rules if an adult child is incapacitated. If there is an emergency with an opioid addiction, the practitioner can use their best judgment and inform the family.
Protecting Psychotherapy Notes
Psychotherapy notes receive special protections under HIPAA. The provider takes notes during appointments, separate from medical records. The Privacy Rule in HIPAA says that a patient must authorize the provider prior disclosure of the notes to anyone else. The psychotherapy notes of children are also protected under this law. Psychotherapy notes are not shared, unlike medical records and treatment plans. The one exception to this rule is if the patient is at risk of harm to themselves or others. Then the provider may use their best judgment and disclose the notes for safety reasons.
Sharing Mental Health Information with Other Health Care Providers
HIPAA allows mental healthcare providers to share protected health information with other providers on the patient’s healthcare team. This could include other mental healthcare providers, general practitioners, or specialists that are medically caring for the patients. They share diagnoses, prescriptions, treatment plans, and results of treatment. Therefore, HIPAA law allows patients to get the best possible care from all of their doctors.
HIPAA can be difficult to navigate. Healthcare providers must follow rules and regulations in order to maintain proper patient privacy. As a mental healthcare provider, it is critical that your practice is following HIPAA guidelines. While this may feel stressful and overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be. Most mental healthcare practices seek the help of an attorney to provide them with guidance when it comes to HIPAA. Once you have hired an attorney, let them know about all of your policies and procedures. Then, they can best determine if you are properly abiding by HIPAA laws. Your attorney will be able to suggest ideas for best practices to ensure HIPAA compliance.
Lawyer in East Brunswick NJ
Bowne Barry & Barry is a lawyer in East Brunswick, NJ. We have guided mental healthcare providers about HIPAA for many years. We work with psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, licensed counselors, nurses, and drug/alcohol addiction counselors. Our firm provides them with practice management strategies. From initial formation to complying with HIPAA, we help mental healthcare providers every step of the way. We know that legal matters may not be your specialty. We want you to focus on caring for your patients and leave it to us to provide legal guidance. For more information about HIPAA and what you need to know as a mental healthcare provider, contact Bowne Barry & Barry today.