Here's something you
can reasonably expect to see covered on the social work licensing
exam: the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act,
HIPAA for short. If you've worked in an agency, you've very likely
encountered HIPAA rules, HIPAA trainings, and, perhaps, HIPAA
headaches. On the exam, HIPAA may show up in an item about record
sharing. A client requests access to psychotherapy notes, say. Or a
client sues a social worker and requests access to psychotherapy
notes. How do you answer? Know your HIPAA. Here are a couple of key
sections from the CSWA's helpful
HIPAA explanation page:
...include the right to receive a health care provider's Notice
of Privacy Practices, and the opportunity to object or opt-out of
certain types of communications... The Privacy Standards also
provide individuals the right to access PHI, and the right to
request amendments to PHI. One of the things HIPAA attempts to do
is make it easier for individuals to access their PHI. As such,
clients have the right to inspect and copy their PHI, in whole or
in part, for as long as the covered entity maintains the
Psychotherapy Notes are a specific category in the HIPAA rule.
Psychotherapy notes are what most clinicians call "process notes"
or the actual verbal and non-verbal record of what takes place in
the therapy session. The HIPAA description of psychotherapy notes
is "raw data." Psychotherapy notes are specifically protected in
the HIPAA rule and belong to the clinician. The general rule is
that a clinician may not use or disclose psychotherapy notes for
any purpose, including most treatment, payment and healthcare
operations, unless the client's authorization is
obtained. Specific exceptions where an authorization is
not required include use by the originator of the notes for
supervision and training purposes; and uses for defense in a legal
Additionally, psychotherapy are, according to HIPAA, supposed to
remain separate from the rest of the client's records.
How should client information be stored? How long do you have to
store records? HIPAA has answers for these questions as well.
Knowing them should give you a leg up on the exam.
More HIPAA pages worth a look:
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