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Notice of Privacy Practices Questions & Answers

Center for Excellence in Disabilities (CED)

Notice of Privacy Practices Questions and Answers

What is a notice of privacy practices?
It is a handout with information about how your confidential health information is stored, processed, and used by your health care providers. It describes your rights to that information and what rights and responsibilities your health care providers have when they handle your information. Each provider may do things a little bit differently. Our privacy notice describes how the CED deals with confidential health information. In the privacy notice, confidential health information is called "protected health information."

Why do I have to receive a copy of the notice?
A new federal law has mandated that all health care providers write a description of how they handle protected health information and give this description to all their clients or patients.

You’ve also sent me an acknowledgement form to sign. Is this some sort of a consent form, and if I sign it, am I consenting to anything or losing any of my rights?
No!! The notice is not a consent form and you will not lose or waive any of your rights if you sign it. Your signature simply shows that you received our notice of privacy practices. You do not have to sign the acknowledgement form if you do not want to do so. The services you receive from us will not change in any way whether you sign or not.

What happens if I refuse to sign the form?
Nothing! The law does not require you to do anything. You do not have to read the notice of privacy practices or sign the acknowledgement form.

How is this form different from a consent or authorization form?
You sign a consent or authorization form when you want to give us permission to provide you with certain services, act on your behalf, or collect confidential information about you. The privacy notice does not give us permission to do any of those things. It just tells you how we will handle your confidential information if you decide to give it to us. The acknowledgement form shows that you have received and read the privacy notice. The acknowledgement form does not give us permission to treat you, act on your behalf, or offer you any services The CED will continue to use consent and authorization forms for those purposes.

What is the purpose of this new privacy law?
The law makes all health care providers in the country legally responsible for handling protected health information in an appropriate way. Most health care providers were already doing a good job at this but there were some exceptions. So the government decided to pass a law to guarantee that everyone’s privacy will be protected. Now all health providers must follow certain standards of confidentiality. If they don’t, they can be fined and prosecuted.

Will I have to read the same notice of privacy practices other places where I receive health care?
Yes. Each health care provider handles medical information a little bit differently, so each notice will be different. While we do encourage you to read the notices so you’ll have an idea of how your health information will be handled, remember that you are not obligated to read or sign any notice.

How did you handle my confidential medical information before this new law?
Pretty much the same way we are doing now. We have always maintained the confidentiality of our clients and we continue to do so.

What do I do if I think my confidentiality has been violated?
You are very welcome to talk to your contact person at the CED, the program manager, or one of the deputy directors about your concerns- but you don’t have to do this if you’d rather not. To file a complaint, you may contact the Legal Services Department of WVU Health Sciences Center or the regional office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Contact information for these agencies is on the third page of our privacy notice.

Can you put into plain English what is in the notice of privacy practices?
You have the right to a copy of any health information we collect from you. You have the right to make corrections to your health information. You have the right to receive communications and mailings from us at an address and/or phone number of your own choosing- even if this is not your home address. You have the right to ask that we not discuss your health information with other members of your family. If you have a legal guardian, that person has all these same rights.

We have the right to discuss your protected health information with other people within our programs for the purpose of providing you with appropriate, services, technical assistance, or referrals. We have the right to discuss your confidential information with people who are on your service coordination team or treatment team. We have the obligation to disclose your protected health information where required by law. In all the above cases, we have the obligation to disclose no more than the minimum amount of information necessary. We will never use your protected health information for research or marketing purposes without your prior authorization.

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