Attorney Lynda M. Johnson conducted HIPAA training today for 100 mental health and human service providers through HARK of Northwest Arkansas at the Center for Collaborate Care in Rogers.
Lynda is a partner with Friday, Eldredge & Clark and has practiced health care law since 1986, representing a variety of health care providers. Her practice focuses on the representation of providers in HIPAA compliance efforts and other areas of regulatory compliance.
During the session, Lynda answered commonly asked questions specific to the mental health field. Here are a few of the key questions and answers:
Q) Are there extra protections in the HIPAA regulations for mental health information as compared to other health information?
A) Generally, the Privacy Regulations apply uniformly to all protected health information without regard to the type of information.
One exception to the general rule, however, is with respect to psychotherapy notes.
Privacy Regs define psychotherapy notes as notes recorded by a mental health professional documenting or analyzing a conversation during a private counseling session or a group, joint, or family counseling session and that are separated from the rest of the medical record.
Psychotherapy notes do not include information regarding medication prescription and monitoring, counseling session start and stop times, modalities and frequencies of treatment furnished, or results of clinical tests. They also do not include summaries of diagnosis, functional status, treatment plan, symptoms, prognosis and progress to date.
They also do not include any information that is maintained in a medical record.
Q) If a mental health professional knows that a patient with a serious mental illness has stopped taking a prescribed medication, can the provider tell the patient’s family members?
A) If the patient does not object, the provider may share or discuss the patient’s mental health information with the patient’s family members.
If the provider believes, in his professional judgment, that the patient does not have the capacity to agree or object and that sharing the information is in the patient’s best interests, the provider may tell the patient’s family member.
In either case, however, only the minimum necessary information should be shared.
Q) Can a minor child’s physician talk to the child’s parent about the child’s mental health status and needs?
A) Under Arkansas law, minors may consent to receive treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and for pregnancy. Thus, with respect to treatment for these conditions, the parent is not considered the personal representative of the child unless the child so requests.
If state law is silent on the issue and the parent is not the personal representative due to one of the exceptions described above, the provider has the discretion to provide or to deny a parent access to the minor’s health information if the decision is made by a licensed health care provider, in the exercise of professional judgment.
Also remember if the minor is being treated for drug or alcohol addiction, there are other Federal regulations that apply that are more stringent than HIPAA.
Also remember that in Arkansas, once a child reaches the age of 18, they are no longer a minor.