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How The HIPAA Law Protects Patients

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The-Watershed-HIPAA lawYour loved one has decided to come to treatment, yay! We are very excited to be able to help your loved one on their journey in recovery. As they take this brave step, you begin to have a feeling of relief! But perhaps you also have a little fear and maybe a few questions like, “Did they make it through the Admissions process?” or “Will they need more shampoo?”

Understanding The HIPAA Law

You decide to call and check in on your loved one, and when you do, a counselor on the other end tells you, “I cannot confirm or deny if that person is a patient at this facility.”

Your immediate response may be to freak out, and think, “What do you mean, you cannot confirm or deny? Why can’t I talk to my loved one!? Is something wrong? Did they not make it to the facility? Did they leave? Gosh darnit – are they OK?” 

Before jumping to conclusions, you need to know that there is a legal reason why The Watershed, and any other regulation-compliant hospital and treatment center, does this. Our patients are protected under the Federal and State Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, commonly known as the HIPAA law.

Protecting Patient Privacy while in Alcohol or Drug Rehab

Before any Watershed staff member, Doctor, therapist, or case manager can talk to you about any patient’s treatment, we must first have that patient’s written permission. Even if our counselors know that you know your loved one is here, they still cannot confirm or deny that individual is at our facility until the patient has signed a release of information or disclosure authorization form, allowing you access to their treatment information. These forms are signed upon arrival, during the Admissions process at the facility.

What we can do, however, is take a message. That message will then be passed on to your loved one. It is then up to the patient to make the decision to return your call.

We Cannot Confirm or Deny That Your Loved One Is In Rehab

You are obviously concerned for the safety and well-being of your loved one, and it’s not unusual to feel that this is a frustrating process. HIPAA law provides each individual patient with the ability to control whom, outside of our treatment professionals, is able to access their treatment information. Once in treatment, it is really up to the individual patient to decide if they would like to remain in contact with and/or have their loved ones involved in their treatment process. This Act helps protect our patients from those individuals who may not want to see them get better, or who might use this information to cause harm to the individual while they are in rehab.

To be blunt, you wouldn’t want a drug dealer to have access to your loved one’s location and treatment information so they can forcibly retrieve their money, right? Or the abusive significant other that your loved one finally got away from, but desperately wants them back?

The safety of our patients is top priority!

Patient Privacy In Alcohol And Arug Rehab

There are hundreds of scenarios that could happen if we didn’t follow HIPAA regulations, all of which may keep your loved one from obtaining long-term recovery. In addition, this helps our patients feel more in control of their own recovery process. They have already taken a big step to go to treatment in the first place, and HIPAA empowers them through the treatment process. Nobody likes to feel like all of their rights have been taken away, especially during the process of addressing mental health issues.

Ultimately, this is their recovery journey, and through working together and supporting them through the process, they are more likely to stay clean and sober long after their stay in treatment. We want every patient of ours to feel safe and comfortable, and we want their loved ones to feel the same way.

You can learn more about the HIPAA law here: Understanding HIPAA Privacy

If you have any questions about HIPAA or treatment, please feel free to call us 24/7 at 1-800-861-1768. We will be more than happy to assist you.

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