The BroglieBox Team
3 min read
Most health care professionals are familiar with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) works to protect the confidentiality and privacy of people receiving medical treatment.
HIPAA’s primary purpose is to protect the privacy of people receiving health care services. The Privacy Rule, added to this legislation in 2000, set further standards to prevent inappropriate use or disclosure of protected health information. Importantly, it also:
- Clarified when therapists and counselors were able to share treatment information with other care providers and a client’s family members.
- Made provisions to allow therapists and counselors to keep psychotherapy notes separate and confidential.
In the case of a minor or client who can’t make their own health care decisions, a therapist can share information directly related to care with the caregiver or representative, unless there is reasonable concern they are causing harm or acting against that person’s best interests. Information shared might include symptoms, treatment, or progress, but not psychotherapy notes.
It is important to always ask your healthcare provider if they (and any programs that they use to store or record information) are HIPPA compliant. An important aspect of HIPAA in the mental health field is that it allows therapists to decide when sharing information about their client is in that person’s best interest—such as to reduce suicide risk or prevent them from harming someone else. If someone in therapy has expressed thoughts of suicide, for example, and has a plan and the means to carry it out, a therapist may contact and notify anyone with a reasonable ability to reduce the risk of harm. This could be a partner, parent, doctor, emergency services, or all of the above. Part of HIPAA training for therapists can involve learning what situations might require this type of “best-interest” action. A therapist acting on the belief their client is in danger or putting someone else in danger will typically not be penalized.
If you’re interested in learning more about HIPAA requirements, a number of online sources offer clear, detailed information about the act, including any recent updates. If you’re doing research online, it’s best to get your information from a verified source, such as websites run by hospitals or other medical agencies, government agencies, or not-for-profit agencies that operate with a goal of sharing factual information with the public.
At this time, we can recommend the below resources:
Talk Space or Better Help (Online/Virtual Therapy)
The Buddy Project (For loneliness and peer support)
Crisis Text Line (For Depression and Self Harm)
Suicide Prevention Hotline (For Self Harm and Suicide Prevention)
Light Therapy (Mayo Clinic)