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Notice of Privacy Practices
About the Notice
Timely, accurate, and complete heal information (this includes information that we compile in your client record to serve you, such as your name, address, phone number, social security number, diagnosis (when applicable) and treatment records) must be collected, maintained, and made available to members of an individual’s service tram so that members of the team can accurately serve you. Most clients understand and have no objections to this use of their information.
On the other hand, you may not be aware of the fact that your health information may also be used as:
- A legal document describing the care rendered such as client grievance.
- Verification of services for which the individual or a third-party payer is billed, as applicable.
- A tool in evaluating the competence and appropriateness of care for Performance and Quality Improvement (PQI).
- Training service professionals in the filing activities or PQI activities.
- A source of data for research for funders such as United Way and Catholic Charities USA.
- A source of information for tracking disease so that public health officials can manage and improve the health of the nation.
- A source of data for facility planning and marketing of services.
- Conducting accreditation, certification and licensing or credentialing activities.
- Engaging in business management or the general administration of Catholic Charities.
Although clients trust their service providers to maintain the privacy of their health information, they are often skeptical about the security of their information when it is computerized or disclosed to others. Increasingly, clients want to be informed about what information is collected and to have some control over how their information is used.
With this in mind, the federal government has passed legislation requiring that we, as service providers, furnish you with our Notice of Privacy Protection below.
Understanding your case record/information
Each time you visit Catholic Charities and/or when we provide you with a services, additions are made to your case record (private health information). This information serves as a:
- Basis for planning your care, services and treatment;
- Means of communication among the many health and social service professionals who contribute to your care;
- Legal document describing the care your received;
- Means by which you or a third-party payer can verify that services billed were actually provided;
- A tool in educating health professionals;
- A source of information for public health officials charged with improving the health of the nation;
- A tool which we can assess and continually work to improve the care we render and the outcomes we achieve.
Understanding what is in your record and how your health information is used helps you to:
- Ensure it is accurate;
- Better understand who, what, when, where and why others may access your health information; and
- Make an information decisions when authorizing disclosure to others.
Your information rights
Although your case record is the physical property of the healthcare practitioner or facility that compiled it, the information belongs to you. By law, you have the right to:
- Obtain a paper copy of this Notice of Privacy Practice;
- Request a restriction on certain uses and disclosure of your information (we are not required to agree to your request);
- Inspect and obtain a copy of your case record (except for some special situations such as psychotherapy notes, information for court proceedings or when there is strong proof that reading the information would cause serious harm to you or others) ;
- Amend your case record (if you feel the health information we have about you is not correct or complete. We will tell you if we cannot change the information);
- Obtain an accounting of disclosures of your health information (we may charge a reasonable fee if you have more than one request in any 12-month period);
- Request communications of your health information by alternative means or at alternative location (we will do this whenever it is reasonably possible); and
- Revoke your authorization to use or disclose health information except to the extent that action has already been taken.
The responsibilities of Catholic Charities
Catholic Charities has a duty to:
- Maintain the privacy of your health information;
- Provide you with a notice as to our legal duties and privacy practices with respect to the information we collect and maintain about you;
- Abide by the terms of this notice;
- Notify you if we are unable to agree to a requested restriction; and
- Accommodate reasonable requests you may have to communicate health information by alternative means or at alternative locations.
We reserve the right to change our practices and to make the new provisions effective for all protected health information we maintain. Should our information practices change, we will make available to you the revised notice:
- At your next scheduled appointment;
- On our website; and/or
- By mail at your request.
We will not use or disclose your health information without your authorization, except as described in this notice.
For more information or to report a problem
To use any of your rights or you feel that your privacy rights have been or are being violated, you may make a request or complaint in writing directly to Catholic Charities’ Privacy Officer. The agency’s Executive Director serves as the Privacy Officer. The Privacy officer is located at 1625 Rutherford Lane, Austin, TX 78754. You may also call 512-651-6100 and request to speak directly to the Executive Director.
You mail also file a complaint by contacting the following:
U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C. 20201 or by telephone at 1-800-368-1019
The Texas Office of the Attorney General
P.O. Box 12548, Austin, TX 78711-2548 or by telephone at 1-800-806-2092
The Texas State Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors (Counseling Services Program)
P.O. Box 141369, Austin, Texas 78714-1369 or by telephone at 1-800-942-5540
There will be no retaliation for filing a complaint.
Use or sharing of health information without your permission
The law permits us to use and share your health information without your permission only for the following reasons:
We will use your health information for treatment. Information obtained by your service provider will be recorded in your case record and used to determine the course of treatment and services that should work best for you by the Catholic Charities staff involved in your care. We may also share your health information with staff from other health care agencies involved in your care.
We will use your health information for payment. A bill may be sent to you or a third-party payer. The information on or accompanying the bill may include information that identifies you, as well as your diagnosis (if applicable), procedures, and supplies used. In addition, we may disclose your health information to seek approval to provide treatment and to find out if your health plan will cover a service or treatment, if applicable.
We will use your health information for Performance and Quality Improvement operations for the agency. Members of the program staff and approved members of the Performance and Quality Improvement Committee may use information in your case record to assess the care and outcomes in your case and others like it. This information will then be used in an effort to continually improve the quality and effectiveness of the services we provide. In addition, supervisors of your service provider may also review your case record as part of the supervisory process of the agency. We want to ensure that best practice occur in service delivery.
We will use your health information for Health Care Operations. In order to provide the highest quality of services your information may be used to obtained professional and agency certifications, as well as it may also be used to educate students, health care staff and other Catholic Charities employees.
There are some additional ways in which your information may be become disclosed.
Business Associates. There are some services provided in our organization through contacts with business associates. Examples include janitorial services, vendors who maintain copy machines, our auditors, an accrediting body, and other contract monitoring bodies. When these serves are contracted, we may disclose your health information to our business associates so that they can perform the job we’ve asked them to do, or they may have access to your health information due to the proximity of health information to their work. To protect your health information, however, we require the business associated to appropriately safeguard your information through a business associate agreement.
Notification and Communication with the Family. Staff will not discuss your case with any outside person including other family members over the age of eighteen who are participating in our program services. However, should we fear for your personal safety, we may use or disclose information to notify or assist in notifying a family member, personal representative, or other person responsible for your care, your location and general condition.
Marketing. We may contact you to provide appointment reminders or information about treatment alternatives or other health-related benefits and services that may be of interest to you.
Public Health. As required by law, we may disclose your health information to public health or legal authorities charged with preventing or controlling disease, injury or disability.
Government Programs Providing Public Benefits. An agency may disclose health information about you to another government agency offering public benefits if:
- The information relates to whether you qualify for or are assigned-up for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the law requires or specifically allows the disclosure; or
- The other government agency follows the same privacy protections we do, has programs that service similar types of people, and the disclosure is needed to coordinate or improve your services.
Correctional Institution. Should you be an inmate of a correctional institution, we may disclose to the institution or agents thereof, health information necessary for your health and the health and safety of other individuals.
Law Enforcement. We may disclose health information for law enforcement purposes as required by law or in response to a valid subpoena. In Texas, agency staff does not usually have the right of unconditional privileged communication. Therefore, staff may be required to testify and our records can be subpoenaed; exceptions would be lawyers, medical doctors and priest under the seal of confessional.
Abuse and Neglect. If we discover that a child (under the age of eighteen), disabled (mentally or physically) or elderly family member (over sixty-five), has been physically, emotionally or sexually abused, we are required by law to report this to the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services. In addition, if we discover that a service provider, such as a physician or counselor, has been sexually inappropriate with a client, we are required by law to report the activity to the District Attorney and the agency that licensed such healthcare provider.
Danger to Self or Others. If, in our professional opinion, we believe that someone in the family poses a clear and imminent danger to self or others, we will break confidentiality and notify the proper authorities.
Outside Monitoring or Evaluation. Federal law makes provision for your health information to be released to an appropriate health oversight agency, public health authority or attorney, provided that a work force member or business associate believes in good faith that we have engaged in unlawful conduct or have otherwise violated professional or clinical standards and are potentially endangering one or more patients, works or the public.
Any use of your protect health information outside of this notice will not occur without your written permission.