In a recent issue, a nurse was concerned when a colleague released confidential patient information to a chemical dependency specialist who may have misrepresented his purpose for obtaining it ("Confidentiality: Wrongful Disclosure Woes," Ethical Problems, November 2005). I'd like to propose an alternative to your consultant's advice. In some hospitals, a nurse can refer such requests to the hospital's Release of Information office, usually found in the Health Information Management department, rather than releasing information herself. There, trained and credentialed staff handle requests for information daily, using forms that comply with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) standards. They can also make appropriate entries in the record about the information requested and its disclosure. The Release of Information office will have policies and procedures that cover requests made during emergencies and on nights and weekends.
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Nurses are busy enough taking care of patients. They shouldn't have to take care of releasing information too.
LISA PETTY, RHIA, MPA