Why Your Healthcare Directive Must Include HIPAA Language

Why Your Healthcare Directive Must Include HIPAA Language

Without a HIPAA release in your document, you are rolling the dice on your medical future.

In the crowded Emergency Department, privacy was lacking with just curtains and thin walls separating patients. As I waited for my father to return from his scan, I heard the raised voices. It was awkward to overhear.

The doctor spoke with an authoritative if not condescending tone. “I’m sorry, but without a HIPAA release, I’m not legally able to share the medical details of your daughter’s condition with you.”

“But I have to understand what’s going on!” the woman yelled at the doctor. “She’s only 27. How could this happen? Please tell me what’s wrong with her!” Her frustration gave way to tears, then sobs.

It was awful. As a fellow mom, I could only imagine the anguish she was feeling. My thoughts immediately went to my two sons. I confess…I felt grateful that they were safe and well. But then I felt horrified for this terrified mom.

HIPAA has complicated end-of-life decision-making.

HIPAA impacts end-of-life decisions


Though HIPAA appropriately protects patient information, it has created more complexity for those making treatment choices on behalf of a patient who is unable to speak for herself. Here’s why. Patient confidentiality laws under HIPAA could limit what the medical team tells your decision-makerswhich at best could lead to uninformed decisions, and at worst, horribly wrong decisions.

When you hear the acronym HIPAA, you might think of the standard form you typically sign at a doctor’s office. The Healthcare Information Portability and Accountability Act was enacted in 1996. Just about every doctor will ask you to sign a HIPAA form, releasing them to share your medical information with those you choose—an insurance company, another doctor, or members of your family.

However, if you were in an accident, rendered unconscious and admitted to the hospital, there would be no HIPAA release on file. Your family members could hit that proverbial wall when striving to extract vital information about your condition from the medical staff in order to make good decisions on your behalf.

Your healthcare agents need to be covered by a HIPAA release statement.

Technically, under HIPAA rules, medical care providers are not supposed to provide any health records or detailed information to anyone other than the patient, including spouses. Of course, some doctors will divulge the information, moved by compassion for frightened family members. But others might stick to the letter of the law, fearing reprimand or legal action down the road.

Be certain your healthcare directive includes a HIPAA release statement. It might read something like this:

My healthcare agent(s) should be treated the same as I would with respect to accessing and disclosing my personally identifiable health information or other medical records, including having the authority to discuss those records with healthcare providers or others. This release applies to any information governed by the Healthcare Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996.

Don’t roll the dice on your medical future. Make certain you complete a Healthcare Power of Attorney document that empowers the people you choose to serve as your healthcare agents (decision-makers). By including the appropriate legal HIPAA authorization, you can be confident your agents will be fully informed of your condition by the medical team, equipping them to make the best decisions on your behalf.

QUESTION: Are you certain your healthcare directive includes HIPAA language? And how about the directives of anyone for whom you might serve as the healthcare agent…like your Mom or Dad?  You might want to go check!


You can prepare for the responsibility of serving as the healthcare agent for one or both of your parents. This FREE guide will help you to prepare for the future possibility of making medical and personal care decisions for your Mom or Dad. Interested? Click here to download your copy.
Healthcare Agent Preparation Guide





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