Ever been put in the middle of a problem concerning the imminent safety of a person, not your patient? If this concern involves a real threat to this person’s safety, it is not a HIPAA violation to reveal only the protected health information, limited in such a way, that may protect this person. Here is an example. Your patient tells you that when she leaves your office, right now, she is going to kill your medical assistant, who is at home. You know that your patient is aware of your medical assistant’s home address. You are aware that your patient is a convicted, violent felon. The patient shows you a gun. It is not a HIPAA violation to give your medical assistant a “heads up” that this patient is apparently on his way over to kill her. A real situation one of my client’s had mimicked this scenario. I cannot go into more details, as I must protect my own client’s privacy, but suffice it to say that the situation must involve a real and imminent threat, and the judge of what is real and what is imminent, is the information revealing party. This should be done only in a situation where you think you are potentially saving a life. The same scenario, but your patient states “I will kill her next month” is not an imminent threat. While every situation is fact intensive, we all want to save lives.
Courtesy of Frier Levitt, Attorneys at Law