Powers of Attorney and Medical Records Release Implications

Healthcare Training Resource
August 16, 2013 — 914 views  
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It is a legal necessity for the health provider to maintain and save medical records of patients. Medical records have several useful functions. They can give complete health information on patients whenever needed by a physician. In addition they can serve legal purposes in case disputes arise on medical issues for some reason.   

Releasing Medical Records

A person’s medical information can not be made available to just anyone; There are rules, laws and protocols in place which stipulate who and how someone’s medical statement can be accessed. It is a confidentiality issue, so there are strict guidelines while dealing with medical records release.

According to Mental Capacity Act 2005, medical information of an incapacitated person can be given only when it is in the patient’s best interest or there is a lawful reason for doing so. In case a serious mental or physical harm is judged likely, the information should not be shared. An attorney or a person with the powers of attorney, as the patient’s representative, has the legal right to the medical information if it is relevant to the case.

The duty of confidentiality continues to exist even after the death of the patient as per the Access to Health Records Act of 1990. Access to the medical records, however, is permitted to the deceased’s personal representative and to those having claims arising from the death of the patient. 

Release of Patient Information

There may arise an occasion when a patient’s medical information has to be released without their consent. This could possibly be in case the patient lacks the capacity to consent, being a victim of abuse or neglect, and the disclosure is in the best interest of the patient. The disclosure without the patient’s consent can also be given when there is a reason to believe that the disclosure is in wider public interest, when it may be necessary to protect the patient from the risk of harm, or when the patient can harm others.

In some cases, the disclosure may be required by law. For instance, there could be a statutory obligation to make the disclosure or against disclosure notice by a statutory authority. In all of these cases, only a minimum amount of information is necessary to comply with notice or order must be disclosed.

Generally, the disclosure follows the principle that the disclosure must be in the patient’s overall interest and the disclosure must not cause physical and mental harm to the patient. The disclosure is also mandatory if there is a legal requirement. Also, it is not necessary for the patient to consent to disclosure if the patient is not in a position to give the consent for any reason including medical condition.

Sharing Information with Third- Parties 

Sometimes personal health information needs to be shared in the best interest of the patient. The need-to-know basis is applicable when nurses, physiotherapists, doctors, and other health professionals attending on the patient need health information of the patient. However, the patient should be made aware that he or she has the right to withhold or not give consent if desired. If the patient wants certain extremely sensitive information not to be shared, this should, under most circumstances, be respected. But if not sharing information can harm the patient or cause their death, the information should be shared. 

The deceased’s relatives have no right to release the information to the third parties if the deceased didn’t want the information to be given out. 

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