Are you aware of the medical privacy laws?
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy Rule, the Privacy Rule, a Federal law, gives you rights over your health information and sets rules and limits on who can look at and receive your health information. These laws definitely protect your privacy, but they can as well keep your family from getting medical information on you in the event of an emergency. Even a spouse or eighteen year old child, without proper paperwork in place can leave you in the dark as far as their medical condition.
An example of a situation would be a spouse traveling on business to another city in the state, with a three hour drive from your home. He gets in an auto accident on the way home and is transported unconscious to the nearest hospital and is being attended by the best medical personal.
You are notified by the police that your spouse has been taken to their local hospital. You are very upset and want to know your spouse's condition; you call the hospital to ask what is happening to him. The nurse in the hospital cannot release any medical information to you unless you have a HIPAA disclosure document executed by your spouse allowing you to know his medical information.
Now you are very nervous and you do not know anything about your spouse's condition. You decide to drive to the hospital, a three hour drive, and the entire drive you do not know anything that is going on. Fortunately, when you get to the hospital your spouse is out of surgery and conscience. You spouse can now authorize you with the doctors to allow you to know their medical situation.
HIPAA protection protects everyone over the age 18 (your son or daughter even while in college) from disclosing your medical information. Please consider getting the appropriate paperwork in place before you your family members have a condition that can because you stress during medical emergencies. Get a HIPAA disclosure document executed on each family member at minimum if they want to have you know about their medical condition.
For a more complete protection there are three documents that can be easily executed for each family member that can properly protect your family for most common situations.
1. HIPAA Disclosure Document - Specifies who can be disclosed your medical information.
2. Medical Power of Attorney - Specifies who can make medical decisions on your behalf.
3. Living Will - Specifies your wishes regarding prolonging life medical treatments
The safe way to generate these three documents is work with your family lawyer to have them drawn up properly for your state. Please keep an electronic copy of the executed document in your email to ensure that you can get access to it when you need it or are not prepared to use it.
Avoid undue stress during an emergency, make sure you understand the HIPAA laws and prepare your family to work with the laws by having your documents in place.
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