This is not a new subject, but I find that most churches are [for the most part] blissfully unaware of the HIPAA law, and it’s ramifications for the church. This law actually came into effect on April 14, 2003, so as I said this is not a new issue at all. Following is a bit of information you really need to be aware of.
Knowledge of this law should not in any wise hinder the church leadership from praying for the sick, but rather encourage you to know “How To” go about the ministry of doing so, with out “having to wonder if you are going to incur a lawsuit.
HIPAA – HEALTH INSURANCE PORTABILITY ACT OF 1996
This law has many parts and purposes. One part of HIPAA, called “Administrative Simplification,” has to do with the transmission of health information [Privacy].
THE HOSPITAL [CARE PROVIDERS] ARE HUGELY RESTRICTED NOW
- Whereas in the past your local hospital might have called you if a member was hospitalized; OR
- If you have a church member who works at the local hospital, and he/she would have taken it upon himself to call the church to request prayer for one who has just been admitted – THEY CAN NO LONGER DO SO. As this would be a violation of HIPAA – and they would be committing a felony if they were to do so – UNLESS, the patient gives authorization to disclose certain information.
HOW DOES THIS LAW IMPACT THE CHURCH?
- To make a long story very short – the restrictions, regarding this aspect of protection of privacy, are placed on the Health Care Providers.
- The church has not violated HIPPA, and is not prohibited by this law in making relevant information known about a church friend or member, by means of a church prayer list, letter, or Web Site.
- However – doing so could be construed as an “Invasion of Privacy,” by a problematic member –if you reveal the details of a member or employee’s medical condition, without his/her prior authorization.
WHAT TO DO?
We believe it would be wisdom to develop a Church Policy where either “Express,” or “Implied,” consent is obtained prior to the publication of names or any facts or conditions of any person
- EXPRESS CONSENT – Development of a “Release Form” which would need to be signed prior to any form of publication. [Best]
- IMPLIED CONSENT – If the church were to occasionally post notices on their Web Site, Bulletin Boards, and/or Bulletins, and In the Employee Handbook, that it is the practice of the church to publish prayer lists, giving the names of the sick and their prayer needs [medical conditions], and clearly stating that if anyone did not want their names or accompanying information to be communicated in this fashion, that they should contact and so inform the church office and or the pastor.
A SAMPLE IMPLIED CONSENT STATEMENT
If the church were to occasionally post notices on it’s Web Site, Bulletin Board, or Church Bulletins, and include in the Church’s Employee Handbook, saying that:
“It is the practice of this church to publish prayer lists, providing the names of the sick and their prayer needs [medical conditions] for the purpose of corporate prayer. If you do not want your name, or information regarding your medical condition or needs to be communicated in this fashion, you should contact and so inform our church office as soon as possible.”
HOW DOES THIS LAW IMPACT YOU AND I, AS INDIVIDUALS?
Because it is a felony for the hospital or the Doctors to disclose medical information to anyone without prior authorization, they usually won’t. Think about it. If your Spouse or Parent is incapacitated by a medical problem, or an accident, how are you going to be able to make decisions in their behalf? That’s why it is so very important for everyone to get legal HIPAA Release Forms signed, allowing crucial information to be shared. Please see another On-Line Article I wrote Taking Steps To Care For Our Family regarding additional “Estate Planning” steps you really should consider.
The above information is provided as a service to the Body of Christ by
If you would like more information about similar church administration issues, please consider purchasing “The Church Administration ‘How To’ Manual”, A Disc is included with the purchase of this manual This Manual, is endorsed by three CPA’s, an EA and two attorneys, and was updated in January, 2011, for the 12th time, since its original publication in 1991.
Please feel free to call for further dialog on this subject, or any other church admin issue, but do keep the ‘timing’ of any call in mind, as we are on the west coast.
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