Patient Privacy Rights Law

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 Do I Have the Right to See My Own Medical Records?

An individual does have the right to view their own medical records. Normally, a health care provider or any other holder of medical records is required to implement certain technical and administrative safeguards to ensure that information within those medical records is not available to just anyone.

However, an individual can request a copy of their own medical records from their healthcare provider or whomever else holds the information. The holder of that information is required to deliver the records to the individual within 30 days. 

It is important to note, that while an individual has the right to obtain their own medical records, it is not illegal for their healthcare provider to charge them a fee for providing a copy of the records. These fees may vary by state as well as by healthcare institution.

Does My Employer Have the Right to See My Medical Records?

An individual’s healthcare provider is generally prohibited from releasing any information regarding an individual’s health records to anyone, including their employer. If, however, the individual’s employer is providing their health care plan, they are permitted to have some access to the individual’s medical information which should normally be kept confidential from an employer.

The employer is only permitted to use this information in a capacity which is related to health care issues. In addition, the employer is not permitted to share this information with any other employees in the company. 

Can My Employer Disclose My Own Medical Records to Anyone?

There are several federal laws which protect against the disclosure of employee medical records in the workplace. Although the language of each law is slightly different, the consensus is that an employer is held to strict confidentiality rules when dealing with acquiring and disclosing medical information of its employees.

Unless a human resources employee, supervisor, or manager has a legitimate need to know, an employer that discloses private medical information is most likely breaking the law. Depending on the circumstances of the case, an employee may be able to file a federal complaint and seek compensation for the damages they suffered through a civil lawsuit.

Federal laws governing privacy of medical records include:

  • The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA);
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA);
  • The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA);
  • The Pregnancy Discrcimination Act (PDA); and
  • The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

In general, there are only four circumstances in which it may be permissible for an employer to share an employee’s private medical information. It is important to note that these are exceptions to the rule, not rules themselves. These exceptions may include disclosing information to:

  • A manager or supervisor when that medical information is necessary in order to provide reasonable accommodations for am employee, which typically falls under the ADA;
  • Safety personnel and first aid providers if that employee should need emergency medical treatment; 
  • Authorized personnel in the course of a state or federal workplace investigation; and
  • Authorized personnel in the course of a worker’s compensation or an insurance claim.

Do I Have to Disclose Information about Therapy Sessions?

Mental health providers, which may include therapists and psychologists are not required to disclose information regarding the mental health of a patient and generally do not do so unless they obtain consent from the patient. 

An employee cannot be denied benefits from a health plan simply because they have not revealed private information regarding their mental health.

What Other Privacy Protections Do I Have for My Medical Information?

There are also other privacy protections which an individual may use for their medical information. Patients at the hospital can request that information regarding their identity or stay at the hospital not be made available to the public in the hospital directory.

In addition, an individual may request that a hospital not share any information regarding their health to family members or friends. If these requests are made, the hospital is obliged to follow them.

In order for law enforcement to obtain the information, they must have legal permission before being authorized to view the individual’s medical records.. This may come in the form of a subpoena.

What Are Some Legal Remedies in a Patient Privacy Rights Dispute?

Subject to certain exceptions, an individual’s health records are private and cannot be released without the individual’s permission. For example, a hospital or health care institution is not permitted to sell, disclose, or release private medical records without the knowledge or consent of the patient.

Access to medical records is strictly controlled, especially if those records are going to be used in a personal injury lawsuit. An exception may include an instance where a patient’s identifying information is redacted, or blacked out, so that that patient cannot be identified. 

This type of medical information can be used for things such as research studies. However, in general, an individual’s health records cannot be accessed without their permission.

As noted above, there are various laws which govern privacy rights related to health records. One of the most commonly known examples is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which helps guarantee security of personal health records.

A violation of an individual’s privacy rights must typically be remedied through a civil lawsuit. In a civil lawsuit, an individual may be awarded damages to compensate them for losses caused by the violation. 

One common example of the improper disclosure of health records causing an individual to suffer a loss is when the disclosure of those records causes the individual to lose a personal injury lawsuit. Upon the discovery of the abuse of privacy rights, it may be necessary for the individual to file an appeal in order to review how those records were used.

A second example may occur when there was improper disclosure of medical information which caused the plaintiff to suffer a physical injury. For example, if prescription medicine information is abused. In this type of case, damages may be awarded to cover the losses for medical treatment as well as other losses which resulted from the abuse of privacy.

Depending on the individual’s situation, they may be entitled to compensation in the form of back pay, front pay, and liquidated damages. If an individual suffered an injury, whether it was physical, mental, or emotional, a court may impose punitive damages as well.

If an individual believes their medical information has been used without authorization, they should consult with a medical privacy lawyer. A lawyer can determine if a violation of the law occurred and assist the individual with filing a lawsuit.

Should I Seek Legal Help?

It is essential to have the assistance of a Insurance lawyer for any patient privacy rights issues you may have. A patient’s rights lawyer can determine if a violation occurred and what remedies may be available in your state. Your lawyer will represent you during any negotiations and court appearances.

It is important to be aware that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing certain federal workplace discrimination laws, such as the ADA, GINA, Title VII, and the PDA. Your attorney can also assist you with all aspects of filing a complaint with the EEOC, as well as assist you if you are permitted to file a lawsuit following the EEOC investigation.


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