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MRA Thought of the Day – Non-custodial Parent Rights to Access Health Information

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Scenario:

Ann Dooley, RHIA

Ann Dooley, RHIA

The father of a minor is requesting the protected health information pertaining to an accident the child suffered while in the care of his mother. The medical record lists the child’s mother as the next of kin and guarantor of the insurance. The authorization for treatment is also signed by the mother. Would there be any problem releasing the information to the child’s father if he does not have custody of the child?

This is a question often asked by release of information personnel when a parent is requesting access to their children’s records, but are not listed in the record as next of kin, or they identify themselves as a divorced parent or non-custodial parent of the child.

Here are my thoughts…

In the absence of a court order or judgment denying access to a non-custodial parent, that parent has equal rights of access to a minor child’s medical, hospital or other protected health information, as they would have if the custody order or judgment had not been entered. (MGL c. 208, s.31).

An authorization for the release of protected health information must be signed by the parent or legal guardian of any patient under the age of 18, unless the child is an emancipated minor.

If a court mandates nondisclosure of the present or prior address of the child is necessary for the health, safety or welfare of the child, the medical records containing such information must not be disclosed.

  • In any such case, a written request to limit or restrict the information along with a copy of the court documents mandating nondisclosure of information or restricted access should be required by the facility.
  • The hospitals procedure to notify hospital personnel of the disclosure limitations or restrictions, should be followed. This includes an alert in the appropriate hospital systems as well as release of information tracking systems.
  • All HIM and release of information staff should be aware of the policies and procedures surrounding release and system alerts for disclosure limitations and restrictions.

What are your thoughts?

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