Updates from Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital and Hospital Foundation
Recently Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital (SNMH) changed its visitor policy. The main entrance is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Entrance to the outpatient building behind the hospital is available Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. You may use any exit when leaving. After hours, guests must enter through the emergency department. The most convenient place to park early or late is Lot A toward the front of the hospital.
As COVID-19 has altered how loved ones and friends can visit patients, it has also raised questions about HIPAA. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA as it is known, was passed by Congress in 1996. HIPAA is the law that protects your privacy as a patient. It limits who can see your medical records. It also gives you the right to get a copy of your medical records from your physician. A question often asked is whether HIPAA permits a physician to discuss a patient’s health status, treatment, or payment arrangements with the patient’s family? According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the answer is yes, but there are caveats.
HIPAA permits covered entities (defined as health plans, health care clearinghouses, and health care providers who electronically transmit any health information in connection with transactions for which Health and Human Services has adopted standards) to share information directly relevant to the involvement of a spouse, family member, friends, or other persons identified by a patient, in the patient’s care or payment for health care. If the patient is present, or is otherwise available prior to the disclosure, and has the capacity to make health care decisions, the covered entity may discuss this information with the family and other persons if the patient agrees or, when given the opportunity, does not object. The covered entity may also share relevant information with the family and other persons if it can reasonably infer, based on professional judgment that the patient does not object.
For example, a doctor may give information about a patient’s mobility limitations to a friend driving the patient home from the hospital. The hospital may also discuss a patient’s payment options with her adult daughter. A physician may discuss treatment with the patient in the presence of a friend when the patient brings the friend to a medical appointment and asks if the friend can come into the treatment room.
For those who want someone other than themselves to have authority for medical decisions should you become incapacitated, you may want to consider a health care proxy or medical power of attorney. While a health care proxy is the one who makes the health care decisions, the person who holds the medical power of attorney is the one who needs to pay for the health care. You should look carefully at both to ensure your wishes for medical care are met. Having an advanced directive and speaking to your estate planning professional can ensure that your intentions are clear to your loved ones and medical professionals.
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