Responding to subpoenas

October 7, 2005

Under what circumstances may I release a patient's records in response to a subpoena?

Q: Under what circumstances may I release a patient's records in response to a subpoena?

A: This is a question that's frequently asked-but the answer bears repeating. You may do so if the requesting party has given you "satisfactory assurances" that (1) he has notified the patient and she has had enough time to object and (2) that he agrees to maintain the confidentiality of the information sought. You may also release protected information in response to a subpoena issued by a judicial officer, a grand jury, certain administrative officers, or court order.

Some states have additional rules you should be aware of. New York, for instance, requires that attorney-issued subpoenas for medical records must be accompanied by a patient authorization.