The purpose of this notice is to let you know how I protect and utilize your health information and how you can exercise your health privacy rights with respect to your treatment with me. (As a licensed psychologist, I am required to post this to my website.) The vast majority of this information is based upon policies spelled out in the the federal law called the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). If you wish to learn more details about HIPAA (and there are many!), please visit: http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/
What information is protected?Under the federal law HIPAA, health care providers and insurers are required to protect your protected health information (PHI). PHI is “individually identifiable health information”, including demographic data, that relates to: · Your past, present or future physical or mental health or condition, · My provision of health care to you, or · Past, present, or future payment for the provision of health care to the individual.
How do I take steps to insure your PHI is not disseminated? I maintain electronic medical records. That is, there is no paper record regarding your treatment. Entry into the office computer is password protected.
Under what circumstances do I release your PHI? In general, under HIPAA, I can only release information about you and your treatment when you provide me written authorization to do so. As such, if you do not initiate and/or agree to the release of information about you, it is not released. If you decide to allow me to release and/or exchange information about you and your treatment (such as when you wish for me to communicate with another healthcare professional who also treats you), I will provide you with a release of information form for you to sign. If you do not sign it, no information is released.
What are the exceptions to this rule?
1. If you use insurance to cover a portion of the cost of your therapy, HIPAA permits me to release information about you and your treatment to your insurer for the purposes of obtaining reimbursement for your treatment with him. This information includes dates and times of sessions, types of session (for instance, individual or family), your DSM-IV diagnosis, your name, and your date of birth. Every insurer is different in terms of what their reporting requirements are, but the above list is generally representative. Some insurers require information about your symptoms (such as sadness or worry), as well as if you are abusing drugs or alcohol or if you pose a risk to the physical safety of yourself or others and a description of that risk.
2. If I believe that you pose a credible danger of serious physical harm to yourself or someone else, HIPAA allows me to act in order that you receive a level of care that insures your safety and the safety of those around you. This action may involve the release of basic information about you to those people or agencies I need to enlist to insure the safety of those involved. Under HIPAA and Illinois state law, I do not have a choice in this matter.
3. In the course of his professional work if I suspect that a child or elderly individual has been abused or neglected, I am mandated by the state of Illinois to report this suspicion to the relevant state agency, including the suspected victim, perpetrator, and any details of which I am aware. Again, this is not a matter of choice, but a state mandate.
4. There are some forms of litigation that can open your treatment records to scrutiny by the court. Most commonly this occurs in the case of a divorce action in which custody of the children is being disputed. It could also happen if you sue somebody and claim that they caused emotional or mental harm to you, or if you use mental or emotional condition as a defense in a lawsuit or criminal action. If you are engaged in litigation currently or are contemplating litigation, you should let me know as soon as is feasible.
5. If I receive a court-order (not anattorney-based subpoena) for the release of your records, I will release this information to the court after consulting with you and your attorney.
How is PHI transmitted? In most cases, I submit insurance claims electronically. There are a few insurers who still do not accept electronic claims. If I send information about your care to other treatment providers, I use either their confidential fax number or certified mail.
Can you have access to your PHI? Yes. You are legally entitled to review and receive a copy of your PHI. However, HIPAA and Illinois state law does except the release of the psychotherapy session notes portion of the PHI to a client if the clinician believes that release of these notes would be detrimental to the client’s well-being. Such an exception would occur only in very rare circumstances. In my 12 years of practice, I have never had to make this exception.