This month’s free California law and ethics practice question will test your knowledge on HIPAA. What is HIPAA? HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 has been around for more than two decades. The law is so complex, that even 20+ years later, it’s still difficult for many MFTs and social workers (not to mention other health care providers) to navigate. Not a day passes without at least one HIPAA-related question showing up in my inbox. While this blog cannot cover everything you need to know about HIPAA, it will provide you an opportunity to test your knowledge on the subject.
You could be tested on:
- What is the purpose of HIPAA?
- Who is considered a HIPAA covered entity?
- What is the difference between medical records and psychotherapy notes?
- Who can sign an authorization for release of information?
- What must be included in a medical record?
- What information can I share with other professionals?
Let’s see how you do on this week’s question!
A therapist closed his private practice as he transitioned into retirement. Several clients requested referrals and started treatment with their new therapists. The retired therapist receives requests for his former clients’ records. As a HIPAA covered entity, what are the therapist’s legal obligations in this situation?
A. Request authorization for release of information to share summary of medical records with clients’ new providers; Safely store all original medical records for 7 years from the date of termination.
B. Request authorization for release of information to share medical records and psychotherapy notes with clients’ new providers; Safely store all original medical records for 7 years from the date of termination.
C. Request authorization for release of information to share psychotherapy notes with clients’ new therapists; Offer copy of medical records to client before securely disposing of records.
D. Request authorization for release of information to share summary of medical records with clients’ new providers; Offer copy of medical records to client before securely disposing of records.
(scroll down for answer and rationale)
The correct answer is A.
Answer B is incorrect because psychotherapy notes are the personal notes of the therapist and kept confidential. Psychotherapy notes are not synonymous with progress notes (a common point of confusion for many). Progress notes (think SOAP, OAR) are part of a client’s medical records/psychotherapy records. If a release is provided by the therapist, progress notes could be shared or summarized. The second part of answer B is correct, but the first part makes it wrong.
Answer C is incorrect all around! As noted above for answer B, we do not share psychotherapy notes. This answer is also incorrect because the therapist cannot dispose of records immediately; they must retain records for a minimum of 7 years.
Answer D is also wrong due to the second part. As noted above, we cannot dispose of records immediately. Records must be retained for a minimum of 7 years. In addition, the therapist does not have a legal obligation to offer their clients copies of records; therapists are only legally required to respond to the request for records.
Answer A is the strongest option available. Under HIPAA, therapists need authorization for release of information before sharing records with other professionals. In addition, therapists must retain records for a minimum of 7 years following termination; this holds true even if a therapist is closing their practice.
How did you do on this question? Does the correct answer and rationale align with your understanding of HIPAA, or did you learn something new? If you have any additional questions, you are welcome to check in with a TDC coach. Our coaches are here to answer your questions and provide support and guidance as you prepare to PASS your California law and ethics exam with confidence!
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