It is pretty much a common understanding that the well-intentioned HIPPAA privacy rules have sown much confusion. In particular, as discussed here, they are as often used as a shield against people and their families understanding what is going on — critical of course to true partnering — rather than sword to ensure access to information. Of course, read carefully the regs, even as currently drafted, actually provide a lot of flexibility to the holders of private health care information.
During a recent fascinating and creative HHS phone call to discuss ways to create useful and accessible online prescription records (of which more in a later blog), someone had a superb idea — to issue a model HIPPAA consent form that includes with the usual insurance company and provider list, language like “any and all family members,” with, of course the option to check or not check it.
Of course, not everyone will want to check the whole family, and might want rather to list individuals who are to be given access, and that should be made possible with a space for such a list or appropriate general description.
Someone else then suggested that the use of such a form should be mandated by HHS.
What I now personally and routinely do is write that language in myself on the current form, drawing explicit attention to it to the professional staff, and suggesting that it will make their lifes simpler, and encouraging them to put it in their standard form. So far, one test only, a very positive response to the idea.
So here is an example of a thing we can do to change the culture by popular will, and of an improvement can ultimately be normalized by the system and government.
I would only add that any provider unhappy with such an approach would certainly face questions from me about their value system and philosophy.