Disclosing information outside the scope of HIPAA

February 1, 2008

I recently dismissed a patient from my pediatric practice. When the child's father asked why we let his son go, we explained that his wife had been abusive to my staff. Now she claims we had no right to release this information to her husband without her consent. Did we violate HIPAA or any other privacy rule?

I recently dismissed a patient from my pediatric practice. When the child's father asked why we let his son go, we explained that his wife had been abusive to my staff. Now she claims we had no right to release this information to her husband without her consent. Did we violate HIPAA or any other privacy rule?

No, you did nothing wrong in truthfully answering the father's question. He has the right to know why you no longer wish to treat his child. It's true that nonmedical information can be protected under HIPAA, but it has to be information about the patient. As a physician, you have no duty to keep confidential information about the mother's behavior.