Patient’s Guide to HIPAA – Uses and Disclosures: Do I Need a Disclosure Authorization to Care For My Elderly Parent?




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FAQ 62: Do I Need a Disclosure Authorization to Care For My Elderly Parent?

Maybe. If you are helping a parent, other relative, or even an unrelated friend or neighbor, HIPAA allows a provider to disclose to a person who is involved in a patient’s care. These people are sometimes called caregivers, and the rule governing caregivers is discussed elsewhere. (See FAQ 58.)  While the HIPAA caregiver policy usually works well, it may be useful to have a written authorization from the patient. This is good advice especially if you will be caring for someone for a long time, if there are many health care providers involved, or if you expect to have to deal with an insurance company or Medicare. Don’t give away your original authorization. Keep copies because you may need them regularly. If you are giving care to someone at a hospital or nursing home, bring a copy with you at all times. The nurse who knows you may not be there tomorrow.

If you obtain a health care power of attorney for another person, the power should specifically mention the authority to obtain protected health information about that person. Protected health information is the formal HIPAA term for a health record. You can obtain a power of attorney for a patient just for HIPAA disclosure purposes without having the authority to make substantive health decisions about the patient. If you sign or receive a broad health care power of attorney that authorizes someone to make substantive health decisions, that same power of attorney should also authorize disclosures to support those decisions.

We think it is a good idea to have a signed disclosure authorization for any family member (other than a dependent child) if you have some responsibility for his or her care. The more remote the relationship, the more important an authorization may be, especially if a hospitalization is expected. The same is true if you are responsible for a neighbor or friend. Ask the hospital for a blank form that it will accept. Plan to obtain the signed authorization in advance of the hospitalization if possible.



Roadmap: Patient’s Guide to HIPAA: Part 3: What You Should Know about Uses and Disclosures (FAQ 62 of 65)

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