HIPAA Release Forms for Behavioral Health Professionals
Under HIPAA regulation health care professionals across all industries are responsible for obtaining HIPAA release forms from their patients.
HIPAA release forms are documents that must be signed by patients before any of their sensitive health care data may be shared with another entity. There are of course rules and exceptions that govern how and when protected health information (PHI) may be shared, even with a HIPAA release form in place. Below, we take a look at some of the rules surrounding HIPAA forms, with special attention to how it relates to behavioral health professionals in particular.
Understanding HIPAA Forms
HIPAA regulation states that providers may disclose PHI (any demographic information that can be used to identify a patient) without a HIPAA release form in place for matters of payment, treatment, or healthcare operations. That means that for activities that keep your practice running on a day-to-day basis, such as sharing PHI with insurance companies, billing companies, or providers sharing PHI with another provider, you do not need to obtain patient authorization.
However, for all other purposes when PHI will be shared with third parties or other entities, behavioral health professionals must obtain express written consent from their patients in a HIPAA release form. Authorizations and disclosures are covered by the HIPAA Privacy Rule, which sets standards for what a HIPAA release form should contain, and when and how they must be executed.
However, when it comes to behavioral health professionals, there is one major exception to the payment, treatment, and operations exclusions that must be prioritized in order to protect patient privacy and avoid major HIPAA violations.
Behavioral Health Professionals
Behavioral health professionals are not permitted to share psychotherapy notes of any kind under the payment, treatment, or operations exclusions. That is because of the particularly sensitive nature of the information that is being collected.
Behavioral health professionals may bill or perform general operational work using minimum information that the patient has provided, such as name, address, etc. However, no notes that have been collected in a psychotherapeutic context may be disclosed under HIPAA regulation.
This is an important distinction that applies only to behavioral health professionals, and should be first and foremost among your priorities when it comes to maintaining your patients’ privacy and confidence.
Keep this in mind when formulating your behavioral health HIPAA release forms!