Not disclosing to family members

May 21, 2004

A patient has asked me not to discuss her health with family members or others. Am I obligated to agree to this?

Q:A patient has asked me not to discuss her health with family members or others. Am I obligated to agree to this?

A: Yes. Only the patient herself has the right to her medical information. HIPAA permits only a few exceptions where you can disclose information without prior patient authorization (for purposes of treatment, payment, and healthcare operations, for example).

From a risk management point of view, you'd be smart to put a notice in the patient's chart saying that she asked you to restrict access to her medical information. This will reduce the chances that one of your staff members will inadvertently disclose restricted patient information to a family member.