In February 2014, OCR issued a new guidance on sharing information related to mental health by searching for “mental health guidance” on HHS’ HIPAA Privacy website.
In the situation you describe, you may confirm whether the individual has been treated at your facility. The HIPAA Privacy Rule permits a covered entity (CE) such as a hospital to disclose certain PHI, including the date and time of admission and discharge, in response to a law enforcement official’s request, for the purpose of locating or identifying a suspect, fugitive, material witness, or missing person. (Refer to 45 CFR 164.512(f)(2)).
Under this provision, a CE may disclose the following information about an individual:
- Name and address
- Date and place of birth
- Social Security number
- Blood type and Rh factor
- Type of injury
- Date and time of treatment, including date and time of admission and discharge
- Distinguishing physical characteristics such as height and weight
- The law enforcement official’s request may be made verbally or in writing.