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Families Could Help More in Treatment, If HIPAA Allowed It

Why is it that families are kept so far out of the loop when it comes to a loved one’s health?

The quick, easy answer, of course, is the nation’s health insurance portability and accountability act (HIPAA). Physicians are able to share only certain information with the family unless the patient agrees to more. The problem is that the patient might be too elderly, addicted or mentally ill to cooperate or even understand what they are agreeing to (or simply stubborn).

Certainly individual civil liberties must be taken into consideration. This writer, in fact, is more than moderately liberal.

But there is a blurry but significant line that puts human wisdom to the test, as we evaluate true need for family assistance.

2 Comments to
Families Could Help More in Treatment, If HIPAA Allowed It

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  1. As a licensed provider of mental health and substance abuse treatment services, I encourage family involvement in the treatment process. The state in which I practice mandates that every consumer of services is offered to have a treatment advocate. Unfortunately, some refuse this and choose to not have an advocate involved in their care. HIPAA or not, the confidential nature of services covered under 42CFR part 2 are very clear. The original intent of the confidentiality regulations was and is to encourage those in need to seek care and many do so under the understanding that their privileged information will be respected and kept confidential. I feel it’s important to respect our client’s rights. Even their right to make unhealthy choices which very well could make for a positive therapeutic intervention.

  2. why not involve families…
    The answer is complicated. Too often that involvement became abusive. Who decides which families is fret with further abuse of power. Who decides what intervention is is also fret with abuse of power. I have seen that involvement abused.

    Not involving parents, in very specific circumstances, also does not help. How to find a balance is difficult. I am not sure there is an answer, but it would be a very good topic for a NAMI convention. They seem to have the most personal interest in the topic.

    Harold A. Maio, retired Mental Health Editor


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