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‘When can my medical information be released to my chain of command?
Col. Ron Stephens
Medical Department Activity-Alaska
Col. Ron Stephens
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 requires health care organizations, including Medical Department Activity-Alaska, to safeguard and maintain the privacy of patients’ health information.
In most cases, facilities and providers can only release PHI with the patient’s authorization or if there is a HIPAA exception. However, HIPAA does allow command officials access to a Soldier’s PHI in certain circumstances.
In accordance with U.S. Army Medical Command policy, MEDDAC provides timely and accurate information to support a commander’s decision-making pertaining to a Soldier’s health risk, medical fitness and readiness. If a commander needs medical information to comply with regulations, that is authorized without the Soldier’s consent. While commanders and their designees have an exception to receive health information, it is limited, and they do not have unrestricted access to a Soldier’s PHI. It is important to note this exception applies only to Soldiers.
While it is common for a unit commander to verbally ask about the general status of a Soldier, requests for medical records should be in writing.
For example, if a commander has questions about a Soldier’s mental ability to perform his duty, a command-directed mental status evaluation should be initiated to afford the Soldier all the protections those processes entail.
On the other hand, if a Soldier initiates the mental health evaluation through a self-referral, medical conditions that don’t affect the Soldier’s fitness for duty or the mission will not be provided to his unit.
Should the Soldier need to be hospitalized or if the Soldier receives prescribed medications that limit his ability to perform his duty, the health care provider has an affirmative duty to notify the unit of this change or limitation of duty status.
In the event the provider determines the Soldier is a danger to himself or to others, this information will be provided to the unit to avert a serious and imminent threat to the health or safety of an individual.
MEDDAC takes great care to ensure only appropriate information is released to authorized persons. However, once the information is released from the medical treatment facility to a commander, it is no longer covered by HIPAA. Instead, it is then covered by the Privacy Act of 1974.
MEDDAC works closely with commanders to ensure they have all the necessary medical information to make informed decisions for mission success. As always, our No. 1 priority is to provide you and your family quality care with quality caring.