HIPAA Privacy Practices
Effective Date: April 13, 2003
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 describes the practices of all the hospitals in the Cottage Health System, including Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital and Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Hospital. In addition to all of the Cottage Health System entities, sites and locations, the following persons, entities and groups also follow the terms of this Notice: any health care professional authorized to enter information into your hospital chart, including our medical staff and independent contractors, all departments and units of the hospital, any member of a volunteer group we allow to help you while you are in the hospital, all employees, staff and other hospital personnel. In addition, these entities, sites and locations may share medical information with each other for treatment, payment or health care operations purposes described in this notice. This notice will tell you about the ways in which we may use and disclose medical information about you. We also describe your rights and certain obligations we have regarding the use and disclosure of medical information.
USES & DISCLOSURES OF MEDICAL INFORMATION
Our Pledge: We understand that medical information about you and your health is personal and we are committed to protecting it. In order to provide you with quality care and to comply with certain legal requirements, we create a record of the care and services you receive at the hospital. This notice applies to all of the records of your care generated by the hospital, whether made by hospital personnel or your personal doctor. Your personal doctor may, however, have different policies or notices regarding the doctor’s use and disclosure of your medical information created in the doctor’s office or clinic. The following categories describe different ways that we use and disclose medical information and examples of each. However, not every use or disclosure in a category will be listed.
For Treatment: We may use medical information about you to provide you with medical treatment or services. We may disclose medical information about you to doctors, nurses, technicians, residents, or other hospital personnel who are involved in taking care of you at the hospital. For example, a doctor treating you for a broken leg may need to know if you have diabetes because diabetes may slow the healing process. In addition, the doctor may need to tell the dietitian if you have diabetes so that we can arrange for appropriate meals. Different departments of the hospital also may share medical information about you in order to coordinate the different things you need, such as prescriptions, lab work and x-rays. We also may disclose medical information about you to people outside the hospital who may be involved in your medical care after you leave the hospital, such as skilled nursing facilities or home health agencies.
For Payment: We may use and disclose medical information about you so that the treatment and services you receive at the hospital may be billed to and payment may be collected from you, an insurance company or a third party. For example, we may need to give your health plan information about surgery you received at the hospital so your health plan will pay us or reimburse you for the surgery. We may also tell your health plan about a treatment you are going to receive to obtain prior approval or to determine whether your plan will cover the treatment.
For Health Care Operations: We may use and disclose medical information about you for health care operations. These uses and disclosures are necessary to run the hospital and make sure that all of our patients receive quality care. For example members of the medical staff, the quality improvement manager, or members of the quality improvement team may use information in your health record to assess the care and outcomes in your case and others like it in an effort to continually improve the quality and effectiveness of the services we provide. We may also disclose information to doctors, nurses, technicians, medical students, and other hospital personnel for review and learning purposes.
Appointment Reminders: We may use and disclose medical information to contact you as a reminder that you have an appointment for treatment or medical care at the hospital.
Treatment Alternatives: We may use and disclose medical information to tell you about or recommend possible treatment options or alternatives that may be of interest to you.
Health-Related Products and Services: We may use and disclose medical information to tell you about our health-related products or services that may be of interest to you.
Fundraising Activities: We may use medical information about you to contact you in an effort to raise money for the hospital and its operations. We may disclose medical information to a foundation related to the hospital so that the foundation may contact you in raising money for the hospital. We only would release, contact information, such as your name, address, and phone number and the dates you received treatment or services at the hospital. If you do not want the hospital to contact you for fundraising efforts, you must notify the CHS Development Office in writing at: CHS Development Office, PO Box 689, Santa Barbara, CA 93105.
Hospital Directory: In conformity with applicable laws, we may include certain limited information about you in the hospital directory while you are a patient at the hospital. This information may include your name, location in the hospital, and your religious affiliation. Unless there is a specific written request from you to contrary, this directory information, except for your religious affiliation, may also be released to people who ask for you by name. This information will not be made available if you are hospitalized on the Psychiatric/Chemical Dependancy unit.
Disaster Relief Effort: We may disclose medical information about you to an entity assisting in a disaster relief effort so that your family can be notified about your condition, status and location.
Research: Under certain circumstances, we may use and disclose medical information about you for research purposes. For example, a research project may involve comparing the health and recovery of all patients who receive one medication to those who receive another, for the same condition. All research projects, however, are subject to a special approval process through the Institutional Review Board. This process evaluates a proposed research project and its use of medical information, trying to balance the research needs with patients’ need for privacy of their medical information. Before we use or disclose medical information for research, the project will have been approved through this research approval process, but we may, however, disclose medical information about you to people preparing to conduct a research project, for example, to help them look for patients with specific medical needs, so long as the medical information they review does not leave the hospital and the Institutional Review Board has approved such activity. We will ask for your specific permission if the researcher will have access to your name, address or other information that reveals who you are, or will be involved in your care at the hospital.
As Required By Law: We will disclose medical information about you when required to do so by federal, state or local law.
To Avert a Serious Threat to Health or Safety: We may use and disclose medical information about you when necessary to prevent a serious threat to your health and safety or the health and safety of the public or another person. Any disclosure, however, would only be to someone able to help prevent the threat.
Organ and Tissue Donation: In conformity with applicable laws, we may release medical information to organizations that handle organ procurement or organ, eye or tissue transplantation, or to an organ donation bank, as necessary to facilitate organ or tissue donation and transplantation.
Military and Veterans: If you are a member of the armed forces, we may release medical information about you as required by military command authorities. We may also release medical information about foreign military personnel to the appropriate military authority.
Workers’ Compensation: In conformity with applicable laws, we may release medical information about you for workers’ compensation or similar programs. These programs provide benefits for work-related injuries or illness.
Public Health Risks: In conformity with applicable laws, we may disclose medical information about you for public health activities. These activities generally include the following:
- To prevent or control disease, injury or disability;
- To report births and deaths;
- To report the abuse or neglect of children, elders and dependent adults;
- To report reactions to medications or problems with products;
- To notify people of recalls of products they may be using;
- To notify a person who may have been exposed to a disease or may be at risk for contracting or spreading a disease or condition;
- To notify the appropriate government authority if we believe a patient has been the victim of abuse, neglect or domestic violence. We will only make this disclosure if you agree or when required or authorized by law.
Health Oversight Activities: In conformity with applicable laws, we may disclose medical information to a health oversight agency for activities authorized by law. These oversight activities include, for example, audits, investigations, inspections, and licensure. These activities are necessary for the government to monitor the health care system, government programs, and compliance with civil rights laws.
Lawsuits and Disputes: If you are involved in a lawsuit or a dispute, we may disclose medical information about you in response to a court or administrative order. We may also disclose medical information about you in response to a subpoena, discovery request, or other lawful process by someone else involved in the dispute, but only if efforts have been made to tell you about the request (which may include written notice to you) or to obtain an order protecting the information requested.
Law Enforcement: In conformity with applicable laws, we may release medical information if asked to do so by a law enforcement official. For patients hospitalized on the acute Psychiatric unit information released must be in accordance with Welfare and Institution Code 5328 (u). For all other situations, the following would apply:
- In response to a court, subpoena, warrant, summons or similar process;
- To identify or locate a suspect, fugitive, material witness, or missing person;
- About the victim of a crime if, under certain limited circumstances, we are unable to obtain the person’s agreement;
- About a death we believe may be the result of criminal conduct;
- About criminal conduct at the hospital; and
- In emergency circumstances to report a crime; the location of the crime or victims; or the identity, description or location of the person who committed the crime.
Coroners, Medical Examiners and Funeral Directors: In conformity with applicable laws, we may release medical information to a coroner or medical examiner. This may be necessary, for example, to identify a deceased person or determine the cause of death. We may also release medical information about patients of the hospital to funeral directors as necessary to carry out their duties.
National Security and Intelligence Activities: In conformity with applicable laws, we may release medical information about you to authorized federal officials for intelligence, counterintelligence, and other national security activities authorized by law.
Protective Services for the President and Others: In conformity with applicable laws, we may disclose medical information about you to authorized federal officials so they may provide protection to the President, other authorized persons or foreign heads of state or conduct special investigations.
Inmates: If you are an inmate of a correctional institution or under the custody of a law enforcement official, we may release medical information about you to the correctional institution or law enforcement official. This release would be necessary (1) for the institution to provide you with health care; (2) to protect your health and safety or the health and safety of others; or (3) for the safety and security of the correctional institution.
YOUR RIGHTS REGARDING MEDICAL INFORMATION ABOUT YOU
You have the following rights regarding medical information we maintain about you:
Right to Inspect and Copy: You have the right to inspect and copy medical information that may be used to make decisions about your care. Usually, this includes medical and billing records, but may not include some mental health information. To inspect and copy medical information that may be used to make decisions about you, you must submit your request in writing to Cottage Health System Health Information Management, PO Box 689, Santa Barbara, CA 93105. If you request a copy of the information, we may charge a fee for the costs of copying, mailing or other supplies associated with your request.
We may deny your request to inspect and copy in certain very limited circumstances. If you are denied access to medical information, you may request that the denial be reviewed. Another licensed health care professional chosen by the hospital will review your request and the denial. The person conducting the review will not be the person who denied your request. We will comply with the outcome of the review.
Right to Amend: If you feel that medical information we have about you is incorrect or incomplete, you may ask us to correct or amend the information. You have the right to request a correction or amendment for as long as the information is kept by or for the hospital. To request a correction or amendment, submit your written request to Cottage Health System Health Information Management, PO Box 689, Santa Barbara, CA 93105. The reason for the request must be included.
We may deny your request for an amendment if it is not in writing or does not include a reason to support the request. In addition, we may deny your request if you ask us to amend information that:
- Was not created by us, unless the person or entity that created the information is no longer available to make the amendment;
- Is not part of the medical information kept by or for the hospital;
- Is not part of the information which you would be permitted to inspect and copy; or
- Is accurate and complete.
Even if we deny your request for amendment, you have the right to submit a written addendum, not to exceed 250 words, with respect to any item or statement in your record you believe is incomplete or incorrect. If you clearly indicate in writing that you want the addendum to be made part of your medical record we will attach it to your records and include it whenever we make a disclosure of the item or statement you believe to be incomplete or incorrect.
Right to an Accounting of Disclosures: You have the right to request an “accounting of disclosures.” This is a list of the disclosures we made of medical information about you other than our own uses for treatment, payment and health care operations, (as those functions are described above) and with other expectations pursuant to the law. To request this list or accounting of disclosures, you must submit your request in writing to Cottage Health System Health Information Management, PO Box 689, Santa Barbara, CA 93105. Your request must state a time period, which may not be longer than six years and may not include dates before April 14, 2003. The first list you request, within a 12-month period, will be free. For additional lists, we may charge you for the costs of providing the list. We will notify you of the cost involved and you may choose to withdraw or modify your request at that time before any costs are incurred.
Right to Request Restrictions: You have the right to request a restriction or limitation on the medical information we use or disclose about you for treatment, payment or health care operations. You also have the right to request a limit on the medical information we disclose about you to someone who is involved in your care or the payment for your care, like a family member or friend. For example, you could ask that we not use or disclose information about a surgery you had. We are not required to agree to your request. If we do agree, we will comply with your request unless the information is needed to provide you emergency treatment. To request restrictions, you must make your request in writing to Cottage Health System Health Information Management, PO Box 689, Santa Barbara, CA 93105. In your request, you must tell us (1) what information you want to limit; (2) whether you want to limit our use, disclosure or both; and (3) to whom you want the limits to apply, for example, disclosures to your spouse.
Right to Request Confidential Communications: You have the right to request that we communicate with you about medical matters in a certain way or certain location. For example, you can ask that we only contact you at work or by e-mail. To request confidential communications, you must make your request in writing to Cottage Health System Health Information Management, PO Box 689, Santa Barbara, CA 93105. We will not ask you the reason for your request. We will accommodate all reasonable requests. Your request must specify how or where you wish to be contacted.
Right to a Paper Copy of This Notice: You have the right to a paper copy of this notice. You may ask us to give you a copy of this notice at any time. Even if you have agreed to receive this notice electronically, you are still entitled to a paper copy of this notice. You may obtain a copy of this notice at our website: www.cottagehealthsystem.org. To obtain a paper copy of this notice please contact the Cottage Health System Quality Improvement Department at PO Box 689, Santa Barbara, CA 93105
Other Uses of Medical Information: Other uses and disclosures of medical information not covered by this notice or the laws that apply to us will be made only with your written permission. If you provide us permission to use or disclose medical information about you, you may revoke that permission, in writing, at anytime. If you revoke your permission, this will stop any further use or disclosure of your medical information for the purposes covered by your written authorization, except if we have already acted in reliance on your permission. You understand that we are unable to take back any disclosures we have already made with your permission, and that we are required to retain our records of the care that we provided to you.
Complaints, Notice Changes, and Contact Information: Cottage Health System is required to maintain the privacy of your health information and must provide you with a notice as to our legal duties and privacy practices with respect to the information we collect and maintain about you. Cottage Health System must abide by the terms of this notice and must notify you if we are unable to agree to a requested restriction. We reserve the right to change our practices and this Notice, and to make the new provisions effective for all protected health information we maintain. We will not use or disclose your health information without your authorization, except as described in this notice. Should our information practices change, we will post a revised Privacy Notice and it shall be made available upon request.
If you have any questions about this notice, you may contact the Cottage Health System Privacy Officer in the Cottage Health System Quality Improvement office at (805) 569-7244. If you believe your privacy rights have been violated, you may file a complaint with the Cottage Health System Privacy Officer (Cottage Health System Quality Improvement Department at PO Box 689, Santa Barbara, CA 93105). Additionally, you may file a complaint with the Secretary of Health and Human Services. You will not be penalized for filling a complaint.