Prepared by Ingrid Waldron, NAMI PA, Main Line
- Seek out family-friendly clinicians. For advice on finding a mental health professional, see https://namipamainline.org/choosing-the-right-mental-health-professional/. For local recommendations, call Main Line NAMI at 267-251-6240.
- Try to obtain agreement about communication with your loved one’s clinician during times when your loved one is stable. To increase your chance of success in developing an agreement with your loved one, see advice at https://namipamainline.org/communicating-with-a-loved-one-who-has-a-mental-illness/.
- You can provide information to your loved one’s clinician, even when the clinician can’t provide information to you due to HIPAA.1 Be informative, factual and concise. If possible, fax or email information to the provider for accuracy of communication. You may want to keep a document with a running history of your loved one’s mental illness and treatment; you can make periodic additions while your memory is still fresh. Do not expect your loved one’s clinician to help you deal with your upset; support groups (https://namipamainline.org/support/) or your own therapist, friends and family are more appropriate for this purpose.
- Summaries of HIPAA regulations indicate multiple circumstances when a health care professional can provide you with information about a loved one with mental illness. This is especially true if your loved one does not object or if you have legal authority to make healthcare decisions for your loved one. Even if these conditions do not apply, the health care provider can share information with you under some circumstances. For example, if you are “involved with the health care or payment for care of your family member or loved one”, then a health care provider can share patient information “if you can help prevent or lessen a threat of harm to the patient or others”. Summaries of HIPAA regulations are available at: https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/families-hipaa-decision-tree-adult-patients.pdf and https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/hipaa-privacy-rule-and-sharing-info-related-to-mental-health.pdf.
1 “HIPAA in no way prevents health care providers from listening to family members or other caregivers who may have concerns about the health and well-being of the patient, so the health care provider can factor that information into the patient’s care. In the event that the patient later requests access to the health record, any information disclosed to the provider by another person who is not a health care provider that was given under a promise of confidentiality (such as that shared by a concerned family member), may be withheld from the patient if the disclosure would be reasonably likely to reveal the source of the information. 45 CFR 164.524(a)(2)(v). This exception to the patient’s right of access to protected health information gives family members the ability to disclose relevant safety information with health care providers without fear of disrupting the family’s relationship with the patient.” (Pages 5-6 in https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/hipaa-privacy-rule-and-sharing-info-related-to-mental-health.pdf)