Can I Share My Patient’s PHI for Treatment of a Family Member?

Q. Under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, may I disclose protected health information (PHI) about my patient to another physician who requests it for the treatment of my patient’s family member?

A. Yes, says the U.S. Department Health and Human Services (HHS). 

The HIPAA Privacy Rule permits you to use or disclose PHI for treatment purposes. While in most cases, the treatment would be for your own patient whose PHI is in question, HIPAA does allow you to use or disclose the information for the treatment of others, such as your patient’s family member. 

For example, says HHS, you can provide information to the other physician about your patient’s adverse reactions to anesthetics before the family member undergoes surgery. HIPAA permits uses and disclosures such as this without the individual’s written authorization or other agreement (with the exception of disclosures of psychotherapy notes, which does require the individual’s written authorization).

However, the HIPAA Privacy Rule doesn’t require you to disclose the requested PHI; you may decline to share it. HIPAA also may impose other limitations on these disclosures. Under the Privacy Rule, individuals have the right to request additional restrictions on the use or disclosure of their PHI for treatment, payment, or health care operations purposes. If you’ve agreed to the requested restriction — and you don’t have to — then you’re bound by that agreement and (except in emergency treatment situations) wouldn’t be permitted to share the information. For example, your patient who has obtained a genetic test may request that you not use or disclose the test results. If you agree to the restriction, you cannot share the results with physicians treating other family members who are seeking to identify their own genetic health risks.

Find more HIPAA articles and information in the TMA HIPAA Resource Center.

Published June 7, 2016

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Last Updated On

June 08, 2016