HIPAA and Caregiver Rights

More than 53 million Americans are unpaid caregivers for family, friends, and neighbors. Nearly one third of adult caregivers are providing assisting to someone with a mental illness.

Knowing what to do when your loved one is experiencing a mental health crisis can be tough. You’re concerned about them, want to know what is happening, and may wish to communicate with their health care providers.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and other privacy standards for health information and medical records may add additional complications to a challenging time. Mental Health America provides helpful information about caregiver rights. You can see more details here, but in the meantime, here are some highlights.

Get Written Authorization if You Can

HIPAA protects individuals by preventing the release of their medical records and other health information, balanced with a provider’s ability to act when this information is necessary for treatment. Under HIPAA, personal health information and medical records can only be released through written authorization that provides consent from an individual to allow a provider to use or disclose their information.

If you are a caregiver, make sure you receive authorization to receive personal health information, speak with the health care provider, and help navigate decisions. Doctors are not allowed to speak to caregivers without authorization. The best time to receive this authorization is during intake.

Some types of information require additional authorization for access. This information includes notes documenting or analyzing a private therapy session and substance use records.

If your loved one chooses not to authorize you to receive their personal health information, remember that is their choice. Try to respect it and know that your care is incredibly important to them.

Other Important HIPAA Information

While HIPAA can prevent a provider from sharing personal health information with you, it does not prevent you from sharing information with the provider. If you are concerned and have information that may be helpful for the health care provider to know, you can share those details with the provider.

You may also want to consider creating a psychiatric advanced directive. This tool can help assure better outcomes. It is like a medical advance directive or a health care power of attorney. A psychiatric advanced directive provides instructions regarding treatment or services an individual wishes to have or avoid during a mental health crisis. If your loved one is unable to make decisions due to a mental health crisis, their desires will be clearly communicated by this legal document.

Take Care of Yourself

Being a caregiver can be challenging in the best of times, but the additional complications of caregiving during a pandemic add even more difficulty. The pressure can lead caregivers to be more likely to experience depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and alcohol/drug addiction. Mental Health America provides free online screenings.

If you or someone you love has suffered from an injury, call our office today to schedule a free consultation. We’re on your side and we will help you get the compensation you deserve to offset the costs associated with a personal injury. John Schuerman is a compassionate advocate for injury victims. Schuerman Law has been working with personal injury claims for over 40 years. You can schedule a free consultation today by calling Schuerman Law at 1-800-274-0045.