At the CLARE Foundation, we understand that when a loved one is in treatment for substance abuse, it is only natural for friends and family to be concerned. They want to know what’s going on and often want to personally speak with a patient, if just for reassurance.
However, HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) patient privacy has become a legal issue and often prevents treatment centers and health providers from sharing patient information. Many people take this the wrong way, simply by not understanding that this is done not just for legal reasons but also for the best interest of the patient.
In one typical example, we were recently approached by an individual claiming to know one of our clients. He continued to call our Executive Director and repeatedly came by our treatment center, demanding to see the client. As the client had not approved the release of information to this individual, we continued to turn down his requests and he was very upset. He threatened legal action, picketing our programs and events, and even called the police to allege the client was kidnapped by CLARE. It would have been simple for CLARE to give in, and tell the unwanted visitor that the client did not want him to visit. But CLARE takes patient privacy seriously, and has held its stance, despite numerous threats.
Given the sensitive nature of our industry, there are strict patient privacy laws to protect client privacy. Without the proper approval from clients – stating what we can release to whom – we can’t share anything about our clients, including their identity or even if they are enrolled in the program.
Because of HIPAA – we stay mum and, as a result, there are a lot of frustrated callers and visitors. However, this is a necessary step to protect the clients and CLARE Foundation from lawsuits for the unauthorized disclosure of protected health information. CLARE supports this law as it is truly in the best interest of the clients we serve.
How Disclosure Works
Patient information concerning their treatment is strictly confidential. A patient can request, in writing, that their records be provided to a designated party, but that would be the only party to whom we could legally provide information.
Where this creates issues is that many friends and family of a client undergoing treatment don’t understand that without the client’s permission, CLARE Foundation would be violating HIPAA laws if we shared information with them.
Nobody wants their personal information “passed around” without their knowledge and most patients want to share private information on their own terms. When a treatment center refuses to provide information it is not done so out of lack of compassion, but to follow the law, which respects a patient’s privacy and the right to share information as they see fit.
Our Thoughts at the CLARE Foundation
At CLARE Foundation, above all else, we are dedicated to client recovery. We certainly understand visitor frustration when they want to know what’s going on with someone dear to them and we legally cannot provide information. Such frustration is perfectly understandable and comes from caring about someone.
HIPAA Laws are quite strict and, like other treatment centers, we are legally bound to follow them. However, it is worth understanding that such laws are not in place to frustrate people or cause undue stress. These laws exist to respect patient privacy as they go through a rough period in their life.
We certainly want friends and family to be involved in the recovery process and we recognize how important that is. As long as the law is properly followed supportive friends and family are always welcome.