News, Developments, and Insights

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HIPAA’s Failure to Provide Enough Patient Control Over Medical Records

HIPAA Privacy Rule


A Not-So-Far-Fetched Seinfeld Episode

In a Seinfeld episode called “The Package” from 1996 (click here to see the scene), airing just months after HIPAA was passed,  Elaine goes to see a doctor for a rash.

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Patient Access to Medical Records Under HIPAA: Significant Reform Needed

Doctor taking notes in his office, isolated

by Daniel J. Solove

Recently, I wrote about the challenges in accessing health information about family members.  In this post, I will explore patients’ access to their own medical records.

HIPAA doesn’t handle patient access to medical records very well. There are many misunderstandings about patient access under HIPAA that make it quite difficult for patients to obtain their medical information quickly and conveniently.

Getting records is currently like a scavenger hunt. Patients have to call and call again, wait seemingly forever to get records, and receive them via ancient means like mail and fax. I often scratch my head at why fax is still used today — it’s one step more advanced than carrier pigeon.

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HIPAA’s Friends and Family Network: Access to Health Information

HIPAA Training Blog Sharing PHI with Friends and Family 02

by Daniel J. Solove

Suppose your elderly mother is being treated at the hospital for a heart condition. Your mother tells her doctor that you can have access to her health information. The doctor, however, doesn’t disclose the information to you.

The doctor thinks that you can only have the information with a signed written authorization. Is this correct?

No. HIPAA doesn’t require a signed or even a written authorization. If a patient tells a doctor that protected health information (PHI) can be shared with family or friends, then that’s all that is needed. The doctor can disclose it to you.

So has the doctor violated HIPAA by refusing to disclose the PHI?

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