S is for Sharing Mental Health Information

Today’s Letter is S, S is for Sharing Mental Health Information

Allowing Providers to Share

In certain circumstances HIPAA allows mental health providers to determine when to share mental health information based on professional judgment, when it is in the best interests of the patient, or to prevent or lessen a risk of harm.

If there is a risk of harm to themselves or others,or if exhibiting behavior that may threaten their health or safety, providers need to be able to use professional judgmentto identify the potential or likely risk and determine who can help lessen it.

Ways to Share

There are several ways the provider may address the situation.

If the patient lacks ability to make decisions or is unconscious, the provider can share information with the patient’s personal representative (if applicable), or with family or friends involved in their care if it’s determined in the patients’ best interest.

A provider may contact anyone reasonably able to lessen the risk of harm when they believe that a patient presents a serious and imminent threat to the health or safety to themselves or another person.

OCR Wont’t Second Guess

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR)states it won’t second guess mental health provider’s judgement when a patient is a threat to himself or others.

For more detail see the OCR guidance on Sharing Mental Health Information.  Remember to check state law for any restrictions on sharing.

This is your HIPAA ABCs brought to you by HIPAA Associates.  Contact us for more information on this important topic and HIPAA training for you and your company.