The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) has rules to protect patients' privacy. Hospitals and health care providers must follow the rules before disclosing your confidential medical information.
So if you're in the delivery room and your family is outside waiting for information, don't be surprised if your doctor asks for your permission before sharing the good news.
HIPAA Privacy Rule
Under HIPAA's Privacy Rule:
- You have a right to see your medical records
- You may ask to have inaccurate information corrected in your records. If there's a disagreement about accuracy, it should be noted in the records
- In most circumstances, your health information can't be shared with others without your permission
- You must be told how your health information is used, whether it's shared, and with whom it's shared
- You have the right to a yearly report showing when your information was shared and why
What's It Mean?
Most people are anxious to share the news when they have a child. But under HIPAA, this information is no different than any other medical condition. You can to tell the hospital what information may be released and when.
So, if you want it, you can have some quiet time before friends and relatives rush into your room!
Hospitals can keep a patient directory of basic information. It may include your name, your room and phone number, and your general health condition. The hospital should ask:
- If you want to be included in the patient directory (you can opt out)
- What information can be given to callers and visitors
- Specific individuals who can and can't get information about you
Also, the hospital can disclose your religious beliefs to clergy members who visit patients. But, you can tell hospital staff not to give out this information if you'd like.
Hospitals must honor your wishes. If they don't, you can file a complaint with the US Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights.
Questions for Your Attorney
- Do I have to sign HIPAA papers each time I go to the hospital?
- Is pregnancy a preexisting condition under HIPAA?
- Does HIPAA stop me from seeing my child's health care information?