Psychotherapy notes

June 2, 2006

I received a medical release form that authorizes me to disclosure "psychiatric information" about a patient I've been treating for depression. Does this release require me to release her "psychotherapy notes"?

Q: I received a medical release form that authorizes me to disclosure "psychiatric information" about a patient I've been treating for depression. Does this release require me to release her "psychotherapy notes"?

A: No. The term "psychiatric information" refers to any data in the medical record that has to do with a patient's psychiatric diagnosis, treatment, and so on. The term "psychotherapy notes," on the other hand, has a distinct meaning under HIPAA. It refers to notes that have been made by a psychiatrist or therapist that are retained separate and apart from the medical record. For this reason, just because you've been authorized to disclose your patient's psychiatric information doesn't mean you can also disclose psychotherapy notes in your possession that pertain to her.