Your Medical Prescription: Who Gets to See it?
Do you think screening of phone calls of U.S. citizens by the U.S. government as part of the “War on Terror” is the only way you can lose your privacy? How about a doctor’s prescription? It’s not about the “War on Terror” (though see the last two statements in this posting) but many other excuses, some apparently legitimate and others with a profit or other motives.
When a physician writes a prescription for your medical condition, the class of drug prescribed can often indicate the name or nature of your medical condition.
What do you think happens to the prescription that your doctor wrote out after the pharmacy fills it? Does it stay in the pharmacy for the refill? Not at all. Your “Protected Health Information” with the implied medical condition may go out to many other people.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”)
NOTICE OF PRIVACY PRACTICES
THIS NOTICE DESCRIBES HOW MEDICAL INFORMATION ABOUT YOU MAY BE USED AND DISCLOSED AND HOW YOU CAN GET ACCESS TO THIS INFORMATION. PLEASE REVIEW IT CAREFULLY.
This Notice of Privacy Practices (the “Notice”) describes the privacy practices of CVS/pharmacy including CVS retail outlets, CVS.com, and CVS ProCare retail outlets.
CVS/pharmacy wants you to know that nothing is more central to our operations than maintaining the privacy of your health information (“Protected Health Information” or “PHI”). PHI is information about you, including basic information that may identify you and relates to your past, present, or future health or condition and the dispensing of pharmaceutical products to you. We take this responsibility very seriously.
Our Pledge Regarding Your Health Information
We are required by federal and applicable state law, regulations, and other authorities to protect the privacy of your health information and to provide you with this Notice. Our pharmacy staff is required to protect the confidentiality of your PHI and will disclose your PHI to a person other than you or your personal representative only when permitted under federal or state law. This protection extends to any PHI that is oral, written, or electronic, such as prescriptions transmitted by facsimile, modem, or other electronic device. This Notice describes how we may use and disclose your PHI. In some circumstances, as described in this Notice, the law permits us to use and disclose your PHI without your express permission. In all other circumstances, we will obtain your written authorization before we use or disclose your PHI.
This Notice also describes your rights and the obligations we have regarding the use and disclosure of your PHI. Under federal and applicable state law, we are required to follow the terms of the Notice currently in effect.
HIPAA’s standards may be pre-empted by certain state laws relating to the privacy of health information. Please see state provisions at the end of this Notice. [Moderator's note: Go to the above link to enter your state for specific state provisions.]
How We May Use and Disclose Your PHI Without Your Permission
TREATMENT, PAYMENT, OR HEALTH CARE OPERATIONS. Below are examples of how Federal law permits use or disclosure of your PHI for these purposes without your permission:
1. Treatment: Dispensing medications. PHI obtained by CVS/ pharmacy will be used to dispense prescription medications. We will document information related to the medications dispensed and services provided in your record. Patient Contacts. We may contact you to provide treatment-related services, such as refill reminders, treatment alternatives (e.g., available generic products), and other health related benefits and services that may be of interest to you.
2. Payment: We may contact your insurer, payor, or other agent and share your PHI with that entity to determine whether it will pay for your prescription and the payment amount. We may also contact you about a payment or balance due for prescriptions dispensed to you at CVS/pharmacy.
3. Health care operations: Service. Your PHI may be used to monitor the effectiveness of our services. Transfer. Your PHI may be transferred for purposes of carrying out the pharmacy services if we buy or sell pharmacy locations. Benefits/Research. We may also use your PHI to tell you about opportunities that may be of interest to you, such as benefits for preferred CVS customers or clinical research projects.
OTHER SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
We are permitted under federal and applicable state law to use or disclose your PHI without your permission only when certain circumstances may arise, as described below.
We are likely to use or disclose your PHI for the following purposes:
Business associates: We provide some services through other companies termed “business associates.” Federal law requires us to enter into business associate contracts to safeguard your PHI as required by CVS and by law.
Individuals involved in your care or payment for care: We may disclose your PHI to a friend, personal representative, or family member involved in your medical care. For example, if we can reasonably infer that you agree, we may provide prescriptions and related information to your caregiver on your behalf.
Disclosures to parents or legal guardians: If you are a minor, we may release your PHI to your parents or legal guardians when we are permitted or required under federal and applicable state law.
Worker’s compensation: We may disclose your PHI to the extent authorized and necessary to comply with laws relating to worker’s compensation or similar programs established by law.
Law enforcement: We may disclose your PHI for law enforcement purposes as required by law or in response to a court order, subpoena, warrant, summons, or similar process; to identify or locate a suspect, fugitive, material witness, or missing person; about a death resulting from criminal conduct; about crimes on the premises or against a member of our workforce; and in emergency circumstances, to report a crime, the location, victims, or the identity, description, or location of the perpetrator of a crime.
As required by law: We must disclose your PHI when required to do so by applicable federal or state law.
Judicial and administrative proceedings: If you are involved in a lawsuit or a legal dispute, we may disclose your PHI in response to a court or administrative order, subpoena, discovery request, or other lawful process.
Public health: We may disclose your PHI to federal, state, or local authorities, or other entities charged with preventing or controlling disease, injury, or disability for public health activities. These activities may include the following: disclosures to report reactions to medications or other products to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or other authorized entity; disclosures to notify individuals of recalls, exposure to a disease, or risk for contracting or spreading a disease or condition.
Health oversight activities: We may disclose your PHI to an oversight agency for activities authorized by law. These oversight activities include audits, investigations, and inspections, as necessary for our licensure and for government monitoring of the health care system, government programs, and compliance with federal and applicable state law.
United States Department of Health and Human Services: Under federal law, we are required to disclose your PHI to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to determine if we are in compliance with federal laws and regulations regarding the privacy of health information.
Although we may not engage in the following activities, under federal or applicable state law, we are allowed to use or disclose your PHI without your permission for these purposes:
Research: Under certain circumstances, we may use or disclose your PHI for research purposes. However, before disclosing your PHI, the research project must be approved by an institutional review board or privacy board that has reviewed the research proposal and established protocols to ensure the privacy of your PHI.
Coroners, medical examiners, and funeral directors: We may release your PHI to assist in identifying a deceased person or determine a cause of death.
Administrator or executor: Upon your death, we may disclose your PHI to an administrator, executor, or other individual so authorized under applicable state law.
Organ or tissue procurement organizations: Consistent with applicable law, we may disclose your PHI to organ procurement organizations or other entities engaged in the procurement, banking, or transplantation of organs for the purpose of tissue donation and transplant.
Notification: We may use or disclose your PHI to assist in a disaster relief effort so that your family, personal representative, or friends may be notified about your condition, status, and location.
Correctional institution: If you are or become an inmate of a correctional institution, we may disclose to the institution or its agents PHI necessary for your health and the health and safety of others.
To avert a serious threat to health or safety: We may use and disclose your PHI to appropriate authorities when necessary to prevent a serious threat to your health and safety or the health and safety of another person or the public.
Military and veterans: If you are a member of the armed forces, we may release your PHI as required by military command authorities. We may also release PHI about foreign military personnel to the appropriate military authority.
National security and intelligence activities: We may release your PHI to authorized federal officials for intelligence, counterintelligence, and other national security activities authorized by law.
Protective services for the President and others: We may disclose your PHI to authorized federal officials so that they may provide protection to the President, other authorized persons, or foreign heads of state, or conduct special investigations.