A hospital emergency department calls to request the records of a deceased patient in order to treat a condition that a surviving relative has. The patient is not the legal executor of the estate so a signed authorization could not be obtained at the time of the request. The caller is insistent that the records are needed as soon as possible and can be faxed to them without an authorization.
Can the records be released?
Here are my thoughts…
Disclosure of health information for urgent treatment purposes does not require an authorization. This rule not only applies to the individual being treated, but can also be used to release records of another individual if it is relevant to the care of the patient. While this rule allows the release of records of one individual to treat another without an authorization, it does not require it. A hospital or physician’s office can require a valid authorization be signed to release the records. If you are unsure you should check the policy on release of information or consult with your organization’s legal counsel. While the caller is correct that the records can be released for emergency cases, if you are uncertain about releasing the records it is better to err on the side of caution and require a valid authorization signed by the executor of the estate.
What are your thoughts?