What Estate Lawyers Need to Know About HIPAA and “Protected Health Information”
Probate and Property, July/August 2004, Volume 18, Number 4
By Daniel B. Evans
Daniel B. Evans is in private practice in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and is the co-chair of the J-1 Economics & Technology of the Practice Committee. He is the “Technology—Probate” columnist for Probate & Property magazine.
If you’ve been to a doctor or hospital in the last few months, you’ve been asked to sign a piece of paper titled something like “HIPAA Notice of Privacy Practices,” which probably told you all sorts of stuff about your medical records that you either didn’t understand or didn’t really care about. Well, the same federal law that has doctors asking patients to sign all of those pieces of paper also imposes penalties on doctors (and hospitals and other health care providers) who make unauthorized disclosures of “protected health information” about their patients. The new rules mean that health care providers are not going to be talking about (or otherwise disclosing information about) the medical condition of a patient to the families of the patient or the lawyer for the patient. These restrictions on disclosing information can lead to problems when families and lawyers are trying to figure out whether the patient is disabled for purposes of durable powers of attorney, advance medical directives, trusts, employment contracts, and other kinds of contracts and documents.