by: Marge Scanlin, former ACA staff
HIPAA. You've seen it at your local doctor's office when you were asked to sign a statement about persons to whom you authorized the release of your medical records. But what does it have to do with camp?
ACA believes the record-keeping policies of HIPAA don't apply to most camps because you don't do electronic billing. However, we know that you need access to records of hospitals and clinics that see your campers and staff-and those organizations are covered by the privacy regulations of HIPAA (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).
Will you get easy access to test and X-ray results when you take campers and staff to see the doctor this summer? While the hospitals will have access to the "Permission to Treat" form you generally take along to the doctor, they may not have written permission from the parent to release information to you.
What should you do?
- Contact the PRIVACY OFFICER at the hospitals and clinics you use BEFORE THE SEASON. Discuss the scenario of needing-in the best interest of the camper or staff member-test results and diagnosis information.
- Remind them that you are in loco parentis (in place of the parent) in supervising the individual while they are at camp and, with the parents' permission to seek treatment in hand, you are the "personal representative" (this term is used in the Act itself) of the camper or staff member.
- Discuss the fact that it is in the best interest of the camper or staff that the camp health-care personnel be aware of the test results/diagnosis. The concept of what is "in the best interest" of the camper is also included in the Act, and health-care providers are allowed under the Act to use their professional judgment to release health information to people involved in the camper's care-when it is in the camper's best interest.
If these steps fail, you have two other options. One is to have the hospital call the parent when the child is at the hospital to request verbal agreement to release information to you. The second is to get a signed statement from the parents at check-in (or at the bus stop, if you pick campers up at a central point) granting you permission to receive the results of medical procedures completed while the child is enrolled at camp. This statement should contain relevant requirements of HIPAA so that the health-care provider will not question your ability to get health information.
We believe that contact with the Privacy Officer of the hospitals and clinics you use should get positive results in most cases. If you have additional questions about the legal requirements of HIPAA, discuss them with your camp physician and/or legal counsel.