How We May Use Or Disclose Protected Health Information

Notice of Privacy Practices

Effective May 15, 2013 

This notice describes how medical information about you may be used and disclosed and how you can access this information.

How We May Use or Disclose Protected Health Information

Following are examples of permitted uses and disclosures of your protected health information. These examples are not exhaustive.

Required Uses and Disclosures

By law, we must disclose your health information to you unless it has been determined by a competent medical authority that it would be harmful to you. We must also disclose health information to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) for investigations or determinations of our compliance with laws covering the protection of your health information.

Treatment

We will use and disclose your protected health information to provide, coordinate, or manage your healthcare and any related services. This includes the coordination or management of your healthcare with a third party. For example, we would disclose your protected health information, as necessary, to a VMC contractor who provides care to you. We may disclose your protected health information to another physician, or healthcare provider (for example, a specialist, pharmacist, or laboratory) who, at the request of your physician, becomes involved in your care by providing assistance with your healthcare diagnosis or treatment. This includes pharmacists who may be provided information on other drugs you have been prescribed to identify potential interactions.

In emergencies, we will use and disclose your protected health information to provide the treatment you require.

Payment

Your protected health information will be used, as needed, to obtain payment for your healthcare services. This may include certain activities VMC will undertake to seek approval for care and payment for the healthcare services recommended for you such as determining eligibility or coverage for benefits, reviewing services provided to you for medical necessity, and undertaking utilization review activities. For example, obtaining approval for a hospital stay might require that your relevant protected health information be disclosed to obtain approval for the hospital admission.

Healthcare Operations

We may use or disclose, as needed, your protected health information to support the daily activities related to healthcare. These activities include, but are not limited to, quality assessment activities, investigations, oversight or staff performance reviews, training of medical students, licensing, communications about a product or service, and conducting or arranging for other healthcare-related activities.

For example, we may disclose your protected health information to medical school students seeing patients at VMC. We may call you by name in the waiting room when your physician is ready to see you. We may use or disclose your protected health information, as necessary, to contact you to remind you of your appointment.

We will share your protected health information with third-party "business associates" who perform various activities (for example, billing, transcription services). The business associates will also be required to protect your health information.

We may use or disclose your protected health information, as necessary, to provide you with information about treatment alternatives or other health-related benefits and services that might interest you. For example, your name and address may be used to send you a newsletter about VMC and the services we offer. We may also send you information about products or services that we believe might benefit you.

Required by Law

We may use or disclose your protected health information if law or regulation requires the use or disclosure.

Public Health

We may disclose your protected health information to a public health authority who is permitted by law to collect or receive the information. The disclosure may be necessary to do the following:

  • Prevent or control disease, injury, or disability.
  • Report births and deaths.
  • Report child abuse or neglect.
  • Report reactions to medications or problems with products.
  • Notify a person who may have been exposed to a disease or may be at risk for contracting or spreading a disease or condition.
  • Notify the appropriate government authority if we believe a patient has been the victim of abuse, neglect, or domestic violence.

Communicable Diseases

We may disclose your protected health information, if authorized by law, to a person who might have been exposed to a communicable disease or might otherwise be at risk of contracting or spreading the disease or condition.

Health Oversight

We may disclose protected health information to a health oversight agency for activities authorized by law, such as audits, investigations, and inspections. These health oversight agencies might include government agencies that oversee the healthcare system, government benefit programs, other government regulatory programs, and civil rights laws.

Food and Drug Administration

We may disclose your protected health information to a person or company required by the Food and Drug Administration to do the following:

  • Report adverse events, or problems and product defects and deviations.
  • Track products.
  • Enable product recalls.
  • Make repairs or replacements.

Legal Proceedings

We may disclose protected health information during any judicial or administrative proceeding, in response to a court order or administrative tribunal (if such a disclosure is expressly authorized), and in certain conditions in response to a subpoena, discovery request, or other lawful process.

Law Enforcement

We may disclose protected health information for law enforcement purposes, including the following:

  • Responses to legal proceedings
  • Circumstances pertaining to victims of a crime
  • Deaths suspected from criminal conduct
  • Crimes occurring at a VMC site
  • Medical emergencies (not on the VMC premises) believed to result from criminal conduct

Coroners, Funeral Directors, and Organ Donations

We may disclose protected health information to coroners or medical examiners for identification to determine the cause of death or for the performance of other duties authorized by law. We may also disclose protected health information to funeral directors as authorized by law. Protected health information may be used and disclosed for cadaver organ, eye, or tissue donations.

Research

We may disclose your protected health information to researchers when authorized by law, for example, if their research has been approved by an institutional review board that has reviewed the research proposal and established protocols to ensure the privacy of your protected health information.

Criminal Activity

Under applicable federal and state laws, we may disclose your protected health information if we believe that its use or disclosure is necessary to prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat to the health or safety of a person or the public. We may also disclose protected health information if it is necessary for law enforcement authorities to identify or apprehend an individual with a subpoena or other legal request.

Military, Veterans, National Security, and Other Government Purposes

If you are a member of the armed forces, we may release your medical information as required by military command authorities or to the Department of Veterans Affairs. The hospital may also disclose medical information to federal officials for intelligence and national security purposes, or for presidential protective services.

Workers' Compensation

We may disclose your protected health information to comply with workers' compensation laws and other similar legally established programs.

Parental Access

Some state laws concerning minors permit or require disclosure of protected health information to parents, guardians, and persons acting in a similar legal status. Some state laws also restrict such disclosures. We will abide by all laws related to your privacy, and will only make disclosures consistent with such laws.

Uses and Disclosures of Protected Health Information Requiring Your Permission

In some circumstances, you have the opportunity to agree or object to the use or disclosure of all or part of your protected health information. Following are examples in which your agreement or objection is required.

VMC Patient Roster

Unless you direct us otherwise, we will use and disclose in our VMC patient roster your name, the location at which you are receiving care, your condition (in general terms), and your religious affiliation. All of this information, except religious affiliation, will be disclosed to people who ask for you by name. Only members of the clergy will be told your religious affiliation.

Individuals Involved in Your Healthcare

Unless you object, we may disclose to a member of your family, a relative, a close friend, or any other person you identify, your protected health information that directly relates to that person's involvement in your healthcare. We may also give information to someone who helps pay for your care. Additionally we may use or disclose protected health information to notify or assist in notifying a family member, personal representative, or any other person who is responsible for your care, of your location, general condition, or death. Finally, we may use or disclose your protected health information to an authorized public or private entity to assist in disaster relief efforts and coordinate uses and disclosures to family or other individuals involved in your healthcare.