Friday, August 31, 2007

VA Tech: The HIPAA Excuse?

The HIPAA privacy rules (see summary) were never intended to block people from getting needed medical attention. Yet, yesterday we learned from Governor Kaine’s Panel on the Virginia Tech shootings that school officials and mental health professionals claimed the law prevented them from communicating with each other and getting Cho the treatment that he so obviously needed.

That’s simply not true. As the Virginia Tech report and its authors explained, the HIPAA law doesn’t bar all communications about a person’s medical history. In fact, there are specific provisions for medical emergencies, for sharing information with family members and caregivers, and for communicating the presence of a person in the hospital (about page 4).

Another important fact is that the privacy law does not prohibit mental health professionals from LISTENING to information about a patient.

For a more detailed look at releasing health information to the families of people with severe mental illnesses, read this Catalyst article.

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