Do Addiction Treatment Centers Keep my Information Confidential and Protected?
It is no secret that there is a huge amount of stigma surrounding the disease of addiction. This stigma is one of the top reasons why so many people refuse to go to rehab despite desperately needing help for an addiction. Some people may be afraid of what their friends, neighbors, and loved ones may think if they go to treatment. Others worry that going to rehab will negatively impact their ability to get hired or work certain jobs in the future. As a result, privacy and confidentiality are of major concern among people seeking drug and alcohol rehab.
If you are struggling with addiction and want to go to treatment, but are worried about how your privacy may be affected, you’ll be happy to hear that there are many federal laws and regulations in place to protect your privacy and confidentiality during rehab. Knowing how these laws work and what your rights are as a patient can help calm your nerves and make you feel more comfortable about your choice to go to a substance abuse treatment program.
Laws Protecting Your Privacy and Confidentiality During Rehab
In the United States, there are several laws and regulations that protect your medical records. Three of the most important when it comes to addiction treatment are:
Health Insurance and Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA)
The Health Insurance and Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, better known as HIPAA, is a federal law that protects patient health information from being shared without your (the patient’s) knowledge and consent. HIPAA specifically outlines the privacy and security rules regarding your Protected Health Information (PHI). Examples of PHI include:
- Your demographics
- Current health status
- Where you are receiving care
- How you paid for your care
- What kind of care you are receiving
Under HIPAA, any healthcare provider, including addiction treatment centers, cannot disclose your medical records without obtaining your written consent. It keeps your medical records in regard to rehab completely private and confidential. Three key ways your information is protected under HIPAA include:
- Your health information cannot be shared in any way that doesn’t directly relate to your care without your written consent. As a result, without your consent, your records cannot be shared with your employer, family, or friends.
- You have a right to request that your information is not shared with certain persons or entities.
- You have the right to know when your information is shared and with whom.
Confidentiality of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Patient Records (42 CFR Part 2)
In addition to HIPAA, substance abuse treatment patients have additional protections in place that are outlined in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). In Title 42, Part 2, the law outlines the Confidentiality of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Patient Records. This law specifically protects your information in regard to your substance use disorder.
This provision recognizes that disclosing information about your substance use disorder could serve as a barrier to treatment. It also recognizes that doing so can lead to adverse consequences that may occur outside of a healthcare setting. As a result, the Confidentiality of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Patient Records prevents addiction treatment providers from disclosing that you are a patient at a rehab center or that you have a problem with drugs or alcohol.
The only way an addiction treatment provider can disclose information about you being in substance abuse treatment is if:
- You provide your consent in writing authorizing your health provider to disclose your PHI
- There is a court order requiring the disclosure of your PHI
- The disclosure is made to medical personnel in the event of an emergency or for research, auditing, or program evaluation.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for Job Applicants
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) protects job applicants who are in or have been in treatment for substance abuse because it regulates interview questions. Even though your time spent in rehab won’t go on a permanent record and cannot be legally disclosed to future employers, you may still be scared to be asked about your addiction in the future. Fortunately, the EEOC guidelines prevent employers from legally asking you about your addiction or whether or not you spent time in rehab.
Although an employer cannot ask you about your addiction, they can require you to take a drug test or ask you if you have ever used illegal drugs. In addition, if you’ve been convicted of a drug-related crime, employers can also ask about convictions.
Exceptions to Privacy and Confidentiality During Rehab
Although these three laws are in place to protect your privacy and confidentiality during rehab, there are a few circumstances during which your information can be legally disclosed without your knowledge and consent. These include:
- Court orders
- Insurance verification purposes
- Law enforcement investigations
- Healthcare protocols
Health Information Consent Forms
When you begin the intake process, your treatment provider will ask you to sign consent forms. Consent forms give staff members the permission to disclose your health information to other people outside of the clinical team. They make it clear with whom, when, and how often you want your health information shared. If you sign consent for a family member, this person will be able to call the rehab center and obtain brief updates in regard to your care. Without your formal consent, your information can only be shared with your written approval as outlined in the above-listed regulations.
Private, Confidential, and Individualized Drug and Alcohol Rehab With Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment
Since there are laws and regulations in place to protect your privacy and confidentiality during rehab, you shouldn’t let the fear of a lack of privacy stop you from getting the help you need. Here at Woburn Wellness Addiction Treatment, we value your privacy, requests, and personal dignity, which is why we abide closely by state and federal guidelines regarding health information. To learn more about how your information may be used or to speak with an addiction specialist, call now.