If you have a loved one in rehab, then you may be curious about the situation. You may be tempted to call or visit the rehab center and inquire about the patient’s status. Given the privacy concerns of treatment, here’s a guide on whether or not you can ask the facility about an individual undergoing rehab.
Table of Contents
- Can I Ask the Facility Regarding Patient Status?
- What Does the Confidentiality Ruling Cover?
- Who Could Rightfully Access Patient Data?
- What Happens When the Facility Violates the Law?
- Exceptions to the Confidentiality Rule
- Other Things You Can Do
- Asking Other Questions
Can I Ask the Facility Regarding Patient Status?
While rehab centers may be able to answer certain questions, they are not at liberty to provide a great deal of information. That’s because they are bound by 2 rulings, namely the Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation Act and the Drug Abuse Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation Act.
These rulings work on the premise that a person in rehab may succeed more if the treatment process is not divulged to other people. After all, there is still some stigma that comes with drug addiction.
What Does the Confidentiality Ruling Cover?
Generally speaking, the restriction applies to the immediate family members, friends, employers, even law enforcement officials. All staff – whether part-time or full-time – are also restricted from divulging information.
If necessary, you may ask the healthcare professional in-charge regarding treatment status. However, be ready with the sparseness of information as he/she must adhere to the statutes of the 2 laws above.
Who Could Rightfully Access Patient Data?
Although treatment information is hands-off to most people, it can be legally shared through the following channels:
1. Internal Communications
Information can be shared within the facility, including areas such as the billing department.
2. Qualified Organizations
Counseling or diagnostic organizations may be given access to rehab treatment data.
3. Law Enforcement Professionals
Should a crime occur on the premises, police and other related professionals will be given access to the sensitive info.
4. Mandated Reporting Officials
In the event of abuse or neglect, officials should be given the info they need for mandated reporting.
Professionals who audit a certain facility are given access to patient information.
What Happens When the Facility Violates the Law?
Given the stringent enforcement of the ruling, many rehab centers will not dare violate the law. For one, doing so comes with a hefty fine. The first offense will cost the facility about $500 – and $5,000 for the subsequent violations. Worse, licensed violators stand to get their certifications revoked. Lawsuits are more than possible, which is why rehab centers are tight-lipped when it comes to divulging patient information.
Exceptions to the Confidentiality Rule
The rehab center will not always turn your request down. The officer in charge may divulge certain info, such as:
1. Non-Patient Identifying Data
You can inquire about non-identifying data, which includes the patient’s name, address, and other information, as long as they don’t reveal the treatment the individual has received.
2. Consented Data
While rehab centers are barred from discussing patient-identifying data to inquirers, they may share some more info with the patient’s consent. To do so, he/she must sign a release form for the data to be released.
Although securing consent may be easy, there are many factors to consider. Remember, the patient has the right to revoke his/her consent orally or through writing.
3. Info for Medical Emergencies
Consent will not be required if the patient experiences a medical emergency. However, this only applies to medical professionals. Relatives and friends will still not be given access to such information.
4. Court-Ordered Data
Another way to get information – should the judge deem it necessary – is through a court order. Here, the facility and the patient are given an info request. This, however, can only be granted if the court finds a suitable cause for the divulgement of data. More often than not, this method often ends up with a denial.
Other Things You Can Do
As it is quite difficult to ask about your patient through phone or email, it’s best to just visit the patient whenever you can. This is especially the case for family members, especially when the individual requires family counseling as well.
If logistics deem it impossible, you can always call your patient at the facility. However, you should be mindful of the blackout period. Patients cannot make or receive calls during this time since they are asked to focus on the treatment modalities at hand.
In some cases, this form of communication is often limited due to the adverse results they could bring. For example, family members who facilitate codependency may prod the patient to crave and misuse again. Talking to friends who also abuse drugs can lead to the same outcome as well.
That being said, a good way to communicate with your patient is through snail mail. Not only will this allow you to express much of your emotions, but it also helps put things in a more positive light. At the same time, this gives your patient a keepsake that he/she can read from time to time.
Asking Other Questions
Although you may not be given access to sensitive patient data, you may ask the rehab about other things that can put your mind at ease. Here are some questions that the facility can readily answer:
- Aspects of the program
- Basis of treatment
- Frequency or coverage of individual therapy
- Dual diagnosis program
- Medical services
- Licensing and accreditation
Learning more about these aspects should give you an idea of what your patient is going through. At the same time, you can look these modalities up for their statistics and results. Knowing the licensure and accreditation status of the facility should also reassure you because this readily means that your patient is in good hands.
Due to the confidentiality laws that cover patient information, you may be met with some resistance when you ask about the individual’s status in rehab. If the non-identifying information is not enough to satisfy your curiosity, visiting or phoning your patient may provide you with the answers you need. You can also send your patient a written letter – which is a good way to show your support from outside the facility walls.
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