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Health Information Privacy

Notice of Privacy Practices

Why you are receiving a notice from your doctors and health plan:

Your health care provider and health plan must give you a notice that tells you how they may use and share your health information and how you can exercise your health privacy rights. In most cases, you should get this notice on your first visit to a provider or in the mail from your health insurer, and you can ask for a copy at any time. The provider or health plan cannot use or disclose information in a way that is not consistent with their notice.

Why you are asked to “sign” a form:

The law requires your doctor, hospital, or any other health care provider you see in person to ask you to state in writing that you received the notice. Often, that means the doctor will ask you to sign a form stating that you received the notice that day.

  • The law does not require you to sign the “acknowledgement of receipt of the notice.”
  • Signing does not mean that you have agreed to any special uses or disclosures of your health records.
  • Refusing to sign the acknowledgement does not prevent the entity from using or disclosing health information as the rule permits it to do.
  • If you refuse to sign the acknowledgement, the provider must keep a record that they failed to obtain your acknowledgement.

What is in the Notice?

The notice must describe:

  • The ways that the Privacy Rule allows the covered entity to use and disclose protected health information. It must also explain that the entity will get your permission, or authorization, before using your health records for any other reason.
  • The covered entity’s duties to protect health information privacy.
  • Your privacy rights, including the right to complain to HHS and to the covered entity if you believe your privacy rights have been violated.
  • How to contact the entity for more information and to make a complaint.

When and how you can receive a Notice of Privacy Practices:

  • Most covered health care providers must give a notice to their patients at the patient’s first service encounter (usually your first appointment). In emergency treatment situations, the provider must give the patient the notice as soon as possible after the emergency. It must also post the notice in a clear and easy-to-find location where patients are able to read it.
  • A health plan must give its notice to each new enrollee at enrollment, and send a reminder to every enrollee at least once every three years that the notice is available upon request. A health plan can give the notice to the “named insurer”, that is, the subscriber for coverage. It does not also have to give separate notices to any covered spouses and dependents.
  • A covered entity must give a copy of the notice to anyone who asks for one. If a covered entity has a website for customers, it must post its notice in an obvious spot there.

For more information, see OCR “Notice” Guidance.