A: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is a federal law that required the creation of national standards to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge. The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued the HIPAA Privacy Rule to implement the requirements of HIPAA.
The Privacy Rule standards address the use and disclosure of individuals’ health information (known as “protected health information”) by entities subject to the Privacy Rule. These individuals and organizations are called “covered entities.” The Privacy Rule also contains standards for individuals’ rights to understand and control how their health information is used. A major goal of the Privacy Rule is to ensure that individuals’ health information is properly protected while allowing the flow of health information needed to provide and promote high quality health care and to protect the public’s health and well-being. The Privacy Rule strikes a balance that permits important uses of information while protecting the privacy of people who seek care and healing.
Most doctors and hospitals require a signed HIPAA form allowing them to talk to you. Your loved one needs to be the person to sign it and to name specific individuals who are allowed to communicate with that particular healthcare provider. If your loved one said that the hospital cannot talk to you, the hospital will not talk to you, even if you are a family member. The hospital staff is not trying to be difficult. Rather, they are protecting patient privacy.