Return-to-Work or -School Releases and HIPAA

Q. Is it necessary to have an authorization signed by the patient or parent for a return-to-work or return-to-school release? Would the answer change based on whether a specific diagnosis is noted on the release?

A. The answer to your question depends on to whom you release the information. If you give the patient the information for the patient to forward, then no authorization is needed. However, if the patient asks you to send the information directly to an outside party, you would need a valid HIPAA authorization form.

The answer would not change based on a diagnosis being on the note. The note, even with just the patient’s name, would be a disclosure of protected health information and therefore would require authorization by the patient if going to anyone other than the patient.

For more information, see the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Summary of the HIPAA Privacy Rule.

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Published Jan. 26, 2017

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January 27, 2017