Investment Glossary – HIPAA Release

A HIPAA release is a document that allows confidential medical information, typically restricted for use or distribution by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, to be released to a third party for their use. In short, it allows for your medical information to be shared with specified people that are defined in that release, so they may have access to medical records they previously would not have had access to.

For most people, the HIPAA release is one of the core basic legal documents, along with a will, power of attorney, living will, and healthcare proxy. It differs from the healthcare proxy, in that the proxy allows a third-party to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event you are incapacitated and unable to make those decisions on your own. But the HIPAA release can provide that third-party with the information regarding your medical condition so they can make those decisions, as the two documents work in concert to give someone the ability to choose medical care for you if you are unable to do so.

The need for a HIPAA release comes out of the bill mentioned in the first paragraph, as that bill laid down specific guidelines for what is called “protected health information”, or PHI, for short. PHI is information that is specifically tied to an individual. So PHI would not be a report from the Centers for Disease Control stating that a certain number of people got the flu last year. PHI would be a statement from a doctor that you currently have the flu. If you want a list of the 18 items that fall under PHI, the HIPAA Journal (which really exists), has all of them right here. It pretty much includes any medical information attached to any kind of identifier for you, be it your name, Social Security number, phone number, and a bunch of other identifiers.

Having a HIPAA release will allow specified family members, friends, associates, or anyone of your choosing to have access to your medical records so they can assist in developing a plan for your care if you cannot develop one for yourself. You get to specify the individuals you want to have access to this information, so it stays within a well-defined list of individuals, and is not simply a blanket release of your information. In general, most people choose a spouse and/or other family members for their HIPAA release, but you have the option to choose other people in the event you would like to.