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HIPAA Security Reminder of the Week

HHS Guidance on Sharing Mental Health Information of a patient

The HHS Office for Civil Rights published guidance that addresses some of the more frequently asked questions about when it is appropriate under the HIPAA Privacy Rule for a health care provider to share the protected health information of a patient who is being treated for a mental health condition.

The HHS guidance clarifies when HIPAA permits health care providers to: communicate with a patient’s family members, friends, or others involved in the patient’s care, depending on whether the patient is an adult or a minor; and consider the patient’s capacity to agree or object to the sharing of their information. In addition, the guidance further clarifies how providers may communicate with family members, law enforcement, or others when the patient presents a serious and imminent threat of harm to themselves or others.

The guidance also provides relevant reminders about related issues, such as the heightened protections afforded to psychotherapy notes by the Privacy Rule, a parent’s right to access the protected health information of a minor child as the child’s personal representative, the potential applicability of Federal alcohol and drug abuse confidentiality regulations or state laws that may provide more stringent protections for the information than HIPAA, and the intersection of HIPAA and FERPA in a school setting. For the full text, review: