HIPPA: Exceptions to the rule Featured

9:55am EDT October 31, 2002
While HIPAA ensures the privacy of health information, there are exceptions that allow that information to be released without the patient's consent.

* Workers' compensation claims. These are not subject to HIPAA regulations because of who is paying the claim, says Scott Sandrock, an attorney and chair of the Health Care Practice Group at Black McCuskey Souers and Arbaugh in Canton.

"Someone might ask, 'Isn't that my secret health information? The fact that I've got a bad back is kind of private.' The response is yes, but you've made it semi-public because you're asking the government to pay for it, asking your employer to pay for it. They ought to at least be able to examine that which you're claiming they ought to pay for."

* Suspected child abuse. If a pediatrician suspects child abuse, he or she is obligated by the state to report it, "whether or not that violates physician/patient confidentiality," Sandrock says.

Gunshot wounds. "If a person come to the emergency room and has been a shooting victim, by statute in Ohio, the hospital is required to report that, even though one could argues that is confidential information," Sandrock says.

Public health-related purposes. The disclosure of protected health information is allowed to the Food and Drug Administration for public health purposes related to the quality, safety or effectiveness of FDA-related products. This ensures the information will continue to be available to protect public health and safety.

Treatment purposes. Covered entities may share private health information with others for treatment purposes, and to covered health care providers for payment purposes. This was changed from the original version of the regulation because of concerns that the consent requirement would impede the delivery of care.