Family members want to know as much as possible, especially when their loved one is seriously injured or ill. But for adult patients, how much can you really share with their family? Many nurses aren’t always clear on what HIPAA and other regulations actually allow them to talk about with a patient’s family members. When a patient is not awake and alert, and cannot currently speak and communicate, this gets even more difficult.
Here’s some up to date information about what you can and can’t share with a patient’s family members.
The HIPAA Privacy Rule: Can You Talk to a Patient’s Family & Friends?
Does HIPAA permit you to discuss details of a patient’s care with their family? The short answer is yes. The HIPAA privacy rule, at 45 CFR 164.510 b, does permit physicians and other healthcare providers to share directly relevant medical care or payment information with a patient’s spouse, family members, friends, or other persons identified by the patient.
But what if the patient is unable to give their opinion or consent, such as if they are not fully conscious? In this case, it is left to a physician or nurse’s professional judgment. If you determine that communicating the information to a particular person is in the patient’s best interest, you are permitted to share it.