There have been a number of breaches of sensitive information recently and questions have come up about minors who are seen for mental health and substance abuse.

What does HIPAA say?

According to the Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR), parents are normally a minor’s “personal representative.”  This means a parent can exercise all of the child’s HIPAA rights, which can include access to health records.  However, there is one major exception to the rule: if the minor-child independently consents to a health care service, and no other consent is required by law.  This can mean the child goes to the ER and signs all the documents for care.  In the state of Colorado, a minor of any age can consent for:

  • Contraception
  • Prenatal, delivery, and post-delivery care
  • Abortions
  • Diagnosis and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases
  • HIV testing and treatment
  • Services for victims of sexual offenses
  • Mental health treatment (minors 15 years old and older)
  • Treatment for drug use and abuse

For the most part, HIPAA defers this regulation to the states.  Each state can determine how sensitive information is handled and who can have access to it.  Remember providers and business associates must follow the stricter of the two laws – between federal and state.

This determination can also be placed in the provider’s hands.  If a provider believes that the minor may be subjected to domestic violence and the like by the parent, the provider can decide not to provide the medical records to the parent.  The provider should probably contact their legal counsel before making this determination.

Are there other requirements?

Providers are also required to report certain things to the state such as child abuse and sexually transmitted diseases.  This is different than the parents having access to medical records, but providers should be aware that this is something else to know about when making determinations on the privacy and confidentiality of a minor’s medical records.

Join HIPAAgps today for your 7-day, risk-free trial so you can learn more about the confidentiality of patients’ health records.